Daily Reflection
April 6th, 2000
Eileen Wirth
Journalism Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalms 106:19-23
John 5:31-47

False Gods.

It's instantly obvious that this is the theme of today's readings.  Do I get an "A" for the correct diagnosis?

So what do we make of this in our lives?  We haven't been tempted to worship a Golden Calf in a long time and most of the people reading this accept Jesus as the Son of God.  Can we plead innocent and leave these readings feeling smugly superior to our Biblical ancestors?

The obvious temptation for a reflection writer is to focus on demons such as love of money as the false gods we are likely to worship in our modern era.  But I find that almost as easy to dismiss as worshiping a Golden Calf.  Very few of us are dot.com millionaires or people who've been hanging around with Regis.  Most of us, while living nicely, are awfully happy to see the first of every month arrive as we try to feed our families, pay our bills and educate our kids.  Or maybe, working at a university, I just hang out with the wrong crowd!

While reflecting on the readings, I started trying to identify my own false gods.  What takes over my life and keeps me from hearing and acting on the word of God?  What limits the love of God that I have in my heart?  It seems particularly appropriate to ask such questions during Lent.

I suspect my own biggest idol is the false God of the Busy.  There are many days when the only "god" I pay attention to is the one telling me that I'm running late for yet one more committee meeting or falling behind on a "to do" list that is sometimes longer at the end of the day that it was at 7:30 a.m.  There's nothing the matter with being busy, of course.  The problem comes when the "busy" becomes an end in itself rather than a means of loving and serving God and others.

The false God of the Busy rears its ugly head when it crowds out even an intuition that listening to the Spirit is important to living a whole and holy life.  It becomes a Golden Calf when it eliminates any willingness to get off the treadmill of self-imposed obligations to spend time listening to and loving others.  You know that this false god has taken over your life when the above sounds enticing but your instant response is: "That would be nice but when do I have the time?"

It's hard for those of us who were born Marthas to become Marys but I've found a few books that help.

You might want to go to a library and check out A Hidden Wholeness by John Howard Griffin, which features contemplative photos taken by Thomas Merton.  The serenity of these images is a reminder that God is eternal and our problems are transitory if only we will slow down enough to think about what's lasting and what isn't.

Another favorite, especially during Lent, is Eugene Kennedy's The Choice To Be Human, reflections on the Gospel of Matthew.  Just a couple of pages a morning are enough to lend some sanity and sense of the transcendent to the craziest day.

Ultimately today's readings challenge each of us to examine our lives and to ask the big questions.  What does it mean to live as a believer?  How can our actions reflect our beliefs?  How do we show we are followers of Christ?  What false gods  prevent us from living as believers should?

Since we are about halfway through Lent, we might also ask ourselves if what we're doing for Lent takes us any closer to eliminating the false idols in our lives.  There's no better day than today to accept the challenge of today's readings and figure out one concrete step that will help us stop worshiping our own personal "Golden Calves."

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