The ARM of St. Michael
The equivalent of ancient idolatry is the modern age phenomenon of addiction. What starts out as a curious or inexplicable weakness for something, can eventually deform the body until one can’t be separated from it.
The intoxicant, whatever it is, represents a mere image, a simulation - an idol, for which one develops affection and then attachment. The attachment can be physiological/sensual, emotional/psychological, and spiritual, often all at once.
An idol is any unholy, self-rewarding desire.
The idol of lust has no place in the healthy functioning of God’s peopled earth. Yet it persists, because long term use of anything creates a relationship of dependency, recognized as a habit. For many children of the sexual revolution, this inculcation may have happened before the age of self understanding and mastery. If we knew what we were doing, we would not have permitted a self-wrought deformity to hobble us for the rest of life.
An idol prompts one of the most radical and consequential of all human temptations, free will of self-power. Given the space, the leisure, the financing, and the lack of supervision and formation, it is very easy for a human being to enter into a relationship with virtually anything, on the slim basis of “I like it”, that eventually morphs into ‘this is now who I am’. Idols survive and thrive, because our free will easily chooses them. Being an addict is at times the same thing as being “me”. That’s how easy or self-justifying.
Once use of an intoxicant takes hold, which can set up in very short order in youth, and later hardened by years of repetitious reliance, it is very hard to back up, take a long view of self and see either entanglement or deformity.
A habit, is the having of something, from Latin habere, to have. One has an attachment to some form -an idea or experience of excitement, because it dependably makes one’s heart beat fast, or feel briefly “alive” or “euphoric”.
A probing quote from Robert Cardinal Sarah:
“In the ancient world, the Jewish authorities, or the priests among the early Christians, had to fight against the temptation to go over to the idols and enjoy sweet dreams. The major heresies of the Low Middle Ages often corresponded to a similar logic, exploiting fears, passions and fantasies. Even today it is still about a search for immediate happiness. …Now, if we move away from God, the snare is never far.”
Why is this so? God made man for a total relationship or bond. In life, human beings will gravitate to anything and ‘latch on’. Yet, the best possible latria (worship) is of God. Every addiction is a search for ultimacy, made practically irresistible by the potent associated “reward”. What is called ‘sweet dreams’, we know as addicts in recovery as intoxication. We make an addiction like we are making a god, but we really want the one and only God Creator, Father of All. Union with the True God fantastically dwarfs all other elations. Don’t believe it? The only barrier is an existing relationship with a false god. The choice of modern times becomes plain: God or addiction.
We come finally to remarkable words from the epistle of the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (thirteenth Sunday of ordinary time): Give light to my eyes that I may never sleep in death, lest my enemy say, I have overcome him. -Psalm 12: 4 These Words make real the grace of hope, a life saving prayer for the long-recovering, weary addict or compulsive.
Lord, do not let our idols - the intoxicants of our addiction, blot out the light of hope for a new heart. Help us to see the error and smallness of our free will, the offensive dated falsity of our habit and grant us desire to change them in Your grace, no matter how long and what it may take. Keep us close to You in Your Church, in our Jesus, and bless us richly with final patience and final hope. We beg in the name of Jesus. Amen.