Adore God, and Him Alone

FATHER KENNETH BAKER, S.J.

Only God may be adored, since he alone is the Supreme Being, source of all that is.

When the existence of the true god is denied or doubted, men tend to create their own gods, more to their liking. A convenient aspect of created gods is that they are much more manageable than the living God who created the heavens and the earth. We live in a time of widespread denial of God, for atheism, often disguised as a compassionate humanism, has become the "religion" of millions.

To be a real atheist, it is not necessary to tell everyone, "I am an atheist," and then proceed to offer arguments from science or from the problem of evil in order to "prove" that God does not exist. Certainly, there are many among us who proceed in this fashion. Much more common, however, is the practice of atheism, that is, one lives as if there were no God, as if the soul were not immortal, as if there would be no final accountability to the Eternal Judge, as if there were no heaven or hell. Such persons are actual or practical atheists, even though they may say they believe in God. A notable characteristic of our time is the tremendous growth in the number of such practical atheists. Since man is born with an irresistible impulse to worship and seek God, if he denies God then he always sets up false gods and false idols.

The First Commandment gives the atheist something to think about. In the first place God says, "I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me." According to the traditional understanding of the Church, this Commandment positively prescribes the practice of the virtue of religion and negatively forbids everything that is contrary to religion.

Religion is concerned with man's relationship to his Creator and Lord. The virtue of religion is the moral virtue by which we are disposed to render to God the worship he deserves. It will be very helpful for us to consider some of the implications of the worship that we owe to God. "Worship" is the name that we give to the reverence we show almighty God. The word is also sometimes used in reference to veneration of the saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary, but without an overtone of "adoration" which is offered to God alone.

Worship of God is put into practice by adoration, prayer and sacrifice. We will say something now about adoration, leaving the other two notions for a later consideration.

Adoration usually suggests an image of someone bowing or kneeling or prostrate before God. These bodily postures, of course, were borrowed from the external honor that is shown to oriental kings and potentates in the past. When applied to God, they signify man's total dependence on God for everything that he is and has. Since God is the source of all reality, by adoring him we give expression to that knowledge and belief. True adoration for man involves both his body and his mind, that is, an exterior sign of reverence accompanied by a mental act of submission to God.

We honor and venerate the saints because they are God's heroes. Whatever good deeds they accomplished on earth, and whatever sanctity they may have attained was completely dependent on the grace of God.

Only God may be adored, since he alone is the Supreme Being, source of all that is. Adoration is different from the veneration offered to Mary and to the saints. Often Protestants and other non-Catholics, seeing Catholics praying the Rosary or kneeling in prayer before a statue of a saint such as St. Francis or St. Theresa, accuse Catholics of offering adoration to the saints. Those who know their catechism know that this is a false accusation. We honor and venerate the saints because they are God's heroes. Whatever good deeds they accomplished on earth, and whatever sanctity they may have attained was completely dependent on the grace of God.

Saints are saints because they responded heroically to the abundant graces God offered them. They are the heroes and the heroines of the faith. By dedicating churches in their honor, by honoring images of them, by praying to them, we are in reality acknowledging the wonders that God achieved in these weak human beings by the power of his grace. Every Catholic with a modicum of training in his faith knows that we no not adore statues or saints. That would be the abomination of idolatry, which is explicitly condemned by the First Commandment.

 

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father Kenneth Baker, S.J. "Adore God, and Him Alone." In Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1 Part II, Chapter 8 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983), 138-141.

Reprinted with permission from Father Kenneth Baker, S.J.

THE AUTHOR

Rev. Kenneth Baker, S.J., has served for the past thirty years as editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1947. In 1970 he served as president of Seattle University and in 1971 became editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. In 1973 he published his translation of the Philosophical Dictionary and adapted it to American usage. In 1975 he became president of Catholic Views Broadcasts, Inc., which produces a weekly 15-minute radio program that airs on 50 stations across the United States. He has built and run three community television stations. In 1983 he published a three-volume explation of the faith called Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1, Creed and Commandments; Vol. 2, God, Trinity, Creation, Christ, Mary; and Vol. 3, Grace, the Church, the Sacraments, Eschatology.

Copyright © 1995 Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.




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