02 March 2006

Neighboring gods

The caution against following "other gods" which we hear in today's reading from Deuteronomy is still applicable to us today. The Israelites were tempted, constantly, to worship the gods of their neighbors, their conquerors and -- as in the case of King Solomon -- the gods of their wives. We probably do not have neighbors who offer sacrifices to what we might consider "other gods." As long as the mainstream media and popular culture often display messages which are contrary to the Gospel and which, if heeded would lead us away from virtue, we do have neighbors who worship "other gods." They may not be sun gods, fertility gods and war gods, but we are, in fact, surrounded by idols.

The Israelites, in many cases, sacrificed to other gods not because they wanted to betray Yahweh, but because they were hedging their bets, so to speak: just in case Yahweh did not come through for them, they had a little incense burning to the local divinity. Their "infidelity," one might conclude, was really due to a lack of trust. When we do not trust that the Lord will provide us will all that we need to carry out his will, we too can be tempted to withhold our trust from Him. And when we fail to trust the Lord, we can be lured into trusting our own means, or the means that popular culture would offer. Some of the world's offerings can lead us toward materialism, relativism, and rugged individualism -- all things which lead us away from Christian virtue.

As we begin our Lenten journey, let us trust that the Lord who has begun this journey with us, is very worth of our turst. St. Francis de Sales urges us to cultivate this trust in the Lord's providence over us and to ask for graces necessary to carry out His will:

"When I say that you must ask for nothing and desire nothing, I am speaking of earthly things; as for virtues, we may, of course, ask for them, and in asking for the love of God, we comprise all, for it contains them all."

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