Romero and the idols

Idolatry is often associated in the popular Catholic imagination with worship of images of false gods. But in the twentieth century the Church began to speak more about both personal idols and social idols.

Romero spoke several times about idols – first of all about personal idols, the idols of self. For example, in his March 23, 1978, homily he said:

We must overturn so many idols,
the idol of self, first of all,
so that we can be humble,
and only from our humility
can learn to be redeemers,
can learn to work together
in the way the world really needs.
Liberation that raises a cry against others
is no true liberation.
Liberation that means revolutions of hate and violence
and takes the lives of others
or abases the dignity of others
cannot be true liberty.
True liberty does violence to self
and, like Christ,
who disregarded that he was sovereign,
becomes a slave to serve others.

But Romero was not averse to identifying and denouncing the idols of society. In his January 7, 1979, homily he boldly stated:

That reign of God finds itself hindered, manacled, by many idolatrous misuses of money and power. Those false gods must be overthrown…. Today the idols are different. They are called money, they are called political interests, they are called national security. As idolatries, they are trying to displace God from his altar. The church declares that people can be happy only when, like the magi, they adore the one true God.

On the day before he was martyred, Romero referred to a hymn that had been written. It is the Gloria of the Misa Campesina Salvadoreña.

The last two verse boldly state the challenge of idolatry:

Now, Lord, you shall be glorified
as you were before, there on Mount Tabor,
when you see this people now transformed
there is life and liberty in El Salvador.

But the gods of power and money
are working against this transfiguration.
Therefore, now you, Lord, are the first
to raise your arm against the oppression.

Beloved Monseñor, give us the courage to raise our hearts and minds and live against the idolatries of our lives and of our world.

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