What is the worst sin you can commit? If you look in the bible under the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, you will see that the first commandment is against idolatry. It has higher precedence than even respecting God’s name. In fact, if you look at the bible, you will see that over and over again, God calls his people to reject idolatry.
You can see that God calls people to turn from the practice of false idols. His prophets remind the people that the figures are nothing more than stone, iron or gold. In fact, the creation story that many use to describe how the Earth was created is actually more a story against idolatry. If we see that God created all things, including the time and its divisions then we understand that there is no moon god, or sun god, or time god, etc.
This is why the current evolution debate is ridiculous, you can find evidence of evolution throughout the bible. It also exists in today’s gospel.
Salvation has a history and it is dynamic, not static. God does not change, we however do. We grow in our ability to understand the world around us and God’s action in our lives. However, when we turn from God and look for other sources of the divinity including ourselves we actually tend to devolve.
The current culture wars are really not about morality; they are about idolatry. Once we stop believing in God, we then turn from the process of growing through God’s lead to come closer to Him and to be more like him and we end up devolving to the way we were before God. Even falling back into pagan practices of human sacrifice. We call those things today euthanasia and abortion, but they are killing to ensure that we live a good life. Everything starts with idolatry. Paul tells people that regardless of what goes on outside the community, not to let it happen in the community.
John the Baptist is not just calling people to repent in the vein of the other prophets, he is calling people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Kingdom in Christ. A whole new stage of Salvation history is coming. We are moving forward. It is time to go to the next level. That is how the Kingdom of God changes from coming from one culture in the middle east to spreading throughout the whole world.
If we look at today’s gospel, we can see John calling people to reform their lives. He wants them to free themselves from those things that turn them away from God. However, if we look at this as a static process, then we miss the point. John is not only announcing the coming of the Messiah, he is also announcing the coming of the next stage of the salvation process. Humanity has evolved now to the point where the process can begin. So he is calling his listeners to reform their lives that the Kingdom of God is at hand. He also rejects the leaders at the time who were practicing idolatry: protecting themselves and their own interests at the expense of the poor and those outside of their circle.
He makes the same call to us. We are part of this same message of salvation for we are the Kingdom of God. He is calling us to strengthen to repent, to turn from those things that separate us from God. He is also calling us to be mindful of Idolatry.
We are either in the Kingdom or we are out. This is a common theme of Jesus’ teaching. When we seek to be part of the Kingdom of God, then we commit ourselves to that kingdom and its mission.
We are the kingdom, we are the people whom God has chosen to further his plan of salvation. There are others who reject us, but if you watch closely, those outside the circle risk devolving. Without us, everyone devolves. This calling that you and I have is not to be taken lightly. John calls us to be committed to it and to understand just whom we are. He calls people to choose to be in or out, but if we choose to be in, we cannot take that position lightly.
I am reminded of my days in the Navy and the time I realized that we were on the front lines of US National Security. The more committed we were to Navy Mission, the stronger we were as a team and in a sense as a community.
St. John the Baptist is reminding us of this special call, but for Catholics today it is a call is unique. We have been bashed around and continue to be bashed around by those outside the Catholic community, many Cathoilcs have left. There has been a threshing floor and those who remain are the most committed to the Kingdom of God. You are the strongest of the community. Today, St. John the Baptist is asking that you recommit yourselves to be agents of God’s Kingdom and to be part of the furthering of the salvation of all and the future evolution of our race.
We need to commit ourselves to grow in our faith this year and to be people who open ourselves to God’s call. We need to turn from all those things that separate us from completing our vocation. We need to turn from those sins rooted in idolatry that put God in a lower place than our King should be. That means the materialism, the consumerism and the many other factors that are idols controlling our lives and leading us into de-evolution and turning to Christ that we may walk down the evolutionary path to our destiny in Christ and to take as many with us as possible.
As St. John the Baptist told the people in his day, so he tells us today. Either repent and turn more to the Lord or walk away and follow other paths. The choice belongs to each of us, each and every day.
Dollar Idol image: copyright LuMaxArt2D from Big Stock Photo
Combine image: copyright lcjtripod from Big Stock Photo