Venite adoremus, Dominum! | Carl E. Olson | Editorial | Catholic World Report
The real problem, for most people, is not an outright denial of Jesus, but a refusal to worship Jesus—the Son of God, the Incarnate Word
“To worship ourselves is to worship nothing. And the worship of nothing is hell.” — Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation
“The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world.” — Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 2807
For as long as I've been paying close attention to the news, which is now over thirty years, I've seen the same repetitive patterns and tired pieces as Christmas approaches. There are the “Yeah, but” pieces, in which Atheist Bob or Skeptic Sue explains, with a mixture of sullen victimhood and strident pseudo-intellectualism, why the Christmas story is full of historical holes and how the world would be a more moral, rational, and loving place without pious, superstitious tales about God, angels, a Virgin and assorted extras (shepherds, wise men, etc.). Along similar lines, there are usually some pieces about how fewer and fewer Americans believe in the Virgin birth and related “myths”. And there is usually something about how Christmas alienates this or that group of people, many of them “offended” in ways that only those with the most sensitive of post-modern sensibilities can be offended.
This year, there has been a spate of stories about “ten commandments” for atheists and skeptics, the result of a contest among the faith-challenged to “rethink the Ten Commandments” and conjure up “an alternative secular version … for the modern age.” On one hand, it's encouraging that some folks are still aware of the Ten Commandments; on the other hand, it's strange that it took some three thousand years (give or take) for the alternative tablets to descend from a cyber hill of 2800 online submissions. And the winner was: “Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.” I'm pretty certain that was also what Mr. Milam, my ninth grade Earth Science teacher, told us during the first week of class. The lack of divine inspiration seems fairly obvious, based on the evidence at hand (although, of course, I'm open to new evidence, if you can wake me up).
The Ten Commandments, however, are not simply a set of rules, and the first commentment is not just a pious platitude: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me” (Deut. 5:6-7). This opening, unique commandment contains, in essence, the whole of the Ten Commandments. Other ancient documents of laws and commandments exist, but haven’t had the lasting influence of the Ten Commandments. Why? Because the Decalogue is first and foremost about the revelation of God—who he is, what he commands, and how he relates to man. By condemning the worship of other gods, the true God announces that he alone is one, holy, and deserving of man’s obedience and worship. This duty to God is not separate from man’s obligation to others, but enlightens and guides it.
In commenting on the nature of “other gods,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses superstition, idolatry, divination, atheism, and agnosticism (pars 2110-2128). Every man worships someone or something, for men, remarked St. Jerome, “invariably worship what they like best.” Everyone practices a religion, even if it is the devout denunciation of another religion.