A Shared Reflection about Apologetics: Images or Idols?

Lately, I have been very busy.  Even though I have two assistants helping in my office, two days of the week, I am behind with many things.  My desk is full of pending items.  I asked one of the parishioners to help me with an article about Apologetics.  She came up with a great reflection that I want to share with you.  As you can see my back pack is open in case you want to place some items on it.   Here you have this inspiring reflection about why we Catholics venerate images…

Images or idols?

Some Protestants think that images are idols.  I think this is just wishful thinking. Many times I have heard Protestants calling Catholics “idolaters”. Is this true?  Protestant preachers preach about conversion using many times the verb “convert” as if we Catholics were pagans with “pagan” customs like revering images. They say that we have all these images, that we kneel before them, take them with us and even make altars in our churches and houses.

I honestly believe that they are confused or they just are being deceived; it is not the same to have an idol, to “idolize” than to have an image of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary or of a saint (it does not even matter if one kneels in front of them or asks for their intercession because we do not believe that those images are God).

First let get started with the concept of what worship means. To worship means a reverent honor and homage paid to God only.  Something reserved to God only.  Does worship means kneeling, kissing or touching an image, statue or even a human being?  Certainly not.  Do Protestants kiss or touch God?  Certainly not.

Protestants cite Exodus 20, 4-5 “You shall not make for yourself a carving or any image of what is in heaven above, or what is on the earth beneath, or what is in the water under the earth.You will not prostrate yourself before them or worship them, because I am Yahweh, your God, a jealous God”.  Deuteronomy 5, 8-9 clarifies the matter more. “You shall not make idols, you shall not make for yourself any of the things that are in heaven above or here below in the earth, nor of what is in the waters under the earth. You will not worship them or worship them, because I, Yahweh, your God, I am a jealous God, who punish the wickedness of the parents in the children until the third and fourth generation.

If you take these quotes out of context it would seem that we Catholics are in trouble but let’s look at the previous verse, Exodus 20, 3 and Deuteronomy 5, 7: “You will not have ‘other’ gods before Me”.

What does this mean? that for an image to provoke the zeal of God, we must believe that this image is “god” without being God.

I wonder: do we believe that images (statues, holy cards, etc.) of the Blessed Virgin Mary or of a saint is “god”? The answer is NO. Again, to adore is to worship a being of a divine nature. No one, not even the most ignorant of Catholics, believes that an image is something divine. In addition, we must also bear in mind that to kneel, is not to adore, that to pray to an image is not to adore; to adore is a movement of the spirit, where the own smallness and the greatness of God are recognized; absolutely nobody, except God, can know by an outward sign whether I am worshiping or not.

Let us continue analyzing the Scriptures.  Do you remember when, after being liberated from Egypt, in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, the Israelites kept complaining against the Lord? They say to Moses: “So that (% # € @ !!!!) you took us out of Egypt, if we had “everything’ there and even garlic, cucumbers and onions we ate and you brought us to this desert where there is no water and there is only this miserable food.” They called miserable food to manna fallen from heaven! (Num 11: 4-5; Num 21: 4-5) Then the Lord raised His protection and commanded the poisonous snakes that attacked and stung them; many died (Num. 21, 6) we also remember when the Lord himself commanded to make some “images”. The Israelites realized that they had sinned against the Lord, they repented and Moses prayed for them, the Lord commanded Moses to make the IMAGE of a bronze serpent… so that everyone who looked at it, and were bitten, he healed (Num 21, 7-9).

Also, let us see when the Lord orders to build His temple, with carved images of open flowers and button, huge cherubs, in addition the Lord had everything carved around the temple, on the walls, inside and out, cherubs, palms and garlands of flowers; the same images with flowers, palm trees, garlands, cherubs, were carved on the door of the temple (1 Kings 6, 18-38).  In the same way, the Ark of the Covenant, he had the (three-dimensional) images of two cherubs on the Mercy Seat; The chandeliers that the Lord commanded to make also represented images of almond and lily flowers (Exodus 25, 16-35). In summary, we can see many images along Sacred Scripture then, we can have images without believing that those are idols.

After this wonderful reflection, I encourage fellow parishioners to suggest topics to me, so I can write in the future according to your suggestions. I hope my back pack do not get to heavy when I try to lift it up.  Keep filling it Lord…

With the collaboration of Mercedes A.

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