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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Veneration (Worship?) of Images

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Catholics venerate or worship images. The Pope himself bows before statues of Mary. Similarly, they worship Christ in the Eucharist. They also possess statues, candles, and other such religious objects in their homes and churches. All these things violate the commandments and are offensive to God.

[The fashioning and veneration of images is forbidden as idolatry] “You shall not carve idols [any graven image] for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, …” (Exodus 20:4-5).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

No, Catholics do not “worship” images. Veneration is different from the kind of exclusive worship and adoration owed to God alone. Rather, we honor and treat with respect those things which remind us of God and those in whom the Lord has done wondrous things. The honor we show the Blessed Virgin Mary is particularly pronounced; however, it is not the same kind of worship which we render to God. Unlike the ancient idol worshippers, the honor is paid not to the physical representation, but to the one who is signified. Definitions are very important. Holy objects often serve the same function as mementos and photographs in our homes; they remind us of our friends and family. Similarly, religious statues, pictures, and all the rest bring to mind our spiritual family of faith and our identity as part of it.

Candles are symbolic of Jesus himself. The smoke rises as prayer is taken into heaven. They give off light and Jesus is the Light of the World, dispelling the darkness of sin and death. They give off heat, and Jesus gave the warmth of healing and forgiveness to others. Like the candle which exhausts itself for our benefit, Jesus surrenders his life that we might be redeemed. Turning to the Eucharist, Jesus himself told us that it was his flesh and blood, the living sacrament of his presence. We can worship this divine mystery because it is Jesus and Jesus is God.

Fundamentalist anti-Catholics are not consistent on this score about graven images. Come Christmas, they usually have statuary-nativity scenes like everyone else. Also, if they were to be consistent in their strict observance of this commandment, it would also include the toy dolls they buy their children. Some cults actually do this! The Catholic view of images is based on the permissible symbolic use of them in the Old Testament and the fact that Christ himself through the incarnation reveals the transcendent God. God allowed images which symbolically pointed to our ultimate salvation in the Lord. The historical fact of the God-Man, Christ, ushers in a new “economy” of images [CCC #2131].

[To be healed from the poisonous bites of serpents] So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.” Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered (Numbers 21:7-9). {See also Wisdom 16:6-8}

[Jesus’ humanity is a healing image of God] “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3:14).

[Regarding the ark of the covenant] “Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them so that one cherub springs direct from each end. The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory” (Exodus 25:18-20). {See also 1 Kings 6:23-28}.