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False idols are tricky things nowadays. In the ancient cultures it was, sometimes, very easy to spot idolatry: there was a golden calf, or a statue of another creature (real or not), or a deity in human form. There was ritual surrounding it: incense, offering, prayers, vestments, priests or priestesses. This kind of idolatry was easy to avoid. But nowadays? Is it still there?
Yes, and it's harder to see it, because while people in our day and age worship all kinds of things, we pretend we don't. We certainly don't have golden calves lying around our house. We might have crucifixes on our walls, paintings of saints all around. We can go to church on Sundays, but idolatry can still be present in our lives, and certainly is present in our world today, if not in our own hearts.
Jesus' parables of mercy are culminated in what has been called the greatest literary masterpiece of all time: the story of the prodigal son. This amazing parable perfectly shows us God's mercy in the face of the idolatry of the younger son (and older son). Idols are common because we were created for worship. Idols are problems because, like in this parable, we worship a lower good at the expense of the highest good, namely, our relationship with The Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what do we worship? I think we can use this quote from St. John of the Cross as a guide: "O souls created for such grandeurs and called to them, what are you doing? How are you spending your time?" The way we spend our time is a huge sign of what we give ourselves to. Some of our time is partly our own, some of it completely ours to control, but all of it should really be the Lord's. I say this to my own condemnation as well, since for years I was more likely found wasting time and not praying, and even now still have days where I mess up.
Another guide for testing our hearts is: how do I make decisions? What upsets me? What do I often think about or worry about? These lead us to possible idols we need I give over regularly to the Lord.
And the main step to this is His merciful love. If we experience that we are loved, we are more ready to drop the things we hope might fill that void but never do.
Let us ask the Lord to enlighten our hearts so we may give them more completely to Him. Amen.