Sunday Sermon for February 14, 2016, the First Sunday of Lent, Year C
Readings: Dt 26:4-10; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13
In the Gospel reading today we hear about Satan tempting our Lord. In the third temptation the devil offers all of the kingdoms of the earth to Jesus if He would just bow down and worship the tempter. In response our Lord quotes Scripture saying “You shall worship the Lord your God; Him alone shall you serve.”
Notice that He does not say that we are to worship the gods and that we are to serve them. The “the” before “Lord” makes clear that there is only one as does the singular ‘He.” This, of course, corresponds to the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God; you shall not have false gods before me.”
Much of the Old Testament time was spent reinforcing this truth to the Jewish people. Regardless of how many times the Lord made it clear that He alone was their God, they continually rejected Him and/or served other gods. Scripture makes clear that Baal is not God; Asherah is not God, Dagon is not God, etc.
Although it took centuries to do it, the Jews were finally convinced that there was no God other than the Lord. The teaching of the Rabbis was always very clear as was the teaching of the Scriptures. The problem is that the people did not seem to be convinced of the fact. Even after it was finally accepted that there is only one God, the people were still often unfaithful, not to the point of worshipping other gods, but by simply ignoring the Lord, sinning against Him or failing to worship Him.
We have a similar phenomenon going on in the Church today. There are many who claim to believe in God and even in Jesus, but they refuse to worship Him or serve Him. But we have an even more insidious movement that has begun. It is to claim that there is only one God, but that He is known in different religions by different names.
These people claim that gods of the various tribal religions are actually one and the same. They claim that Isis, Vishnu, and Allah are the same person simply called by different names. There is actually a point of truth to this in that the devil will present himself in a myriad number of ways, but God presents Himself only in one way. Where the falsehood comes in with this way of thinking is the idea that these titles refer not merely to the same person, but they refer to the same God whom we worship as Lord and God.
Even more tragic are the attempts today to suggest that all religions are equal because we are all worshipping the same God. God, they say, does not care how we worship Him; He only cares that we worship Him. Along these lines, there have actually been statements by Bishops of the Catholic Church that Christians should call God Allah because it is all the same.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! God is a Trinity of Persons, but one God. He has revealed Himself under different titles, but it is always made clear that there is only one God and all the others are false. Jesus told Satan that man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God. God spoke only one word: Jesus. St. Peter said that there is no other name given to humanity by which we will be saved. None!
True we can call Jesus Lord, Christ, Messiah, and so on, but these are just titles for the same person. The other names used in false worship are referring to other beings, not to God. This attempt to suggest that all the gods are really the one true God is nothing but syncretism. This piggybacks on the relativism which is so prevalent in our day.
Moses makes clear in the first reading that the Lord upon whom the Hebrew people called is not the same as the gods of the Egyptians. The Jews wanted to be like everyone else; to have one God and to worship Him alone set them apart from everyone else on earth. Nothing has changed. If you are going to worship God alone, you will not fit in either.
All religions are not equal and God’s revealed truth is not the same as the belief systems of other religions. Truth is truth, it is not an opinion nor is it relative. Maybe this year for Lent we need to make sure that we are firmly grounded in our Faith, the only one that is the fullness of the truth. Our Faith is the fulfillment of Judaism, built upon the truth that God revealed to the Patriarchs and Prophets and now completed in Jesus. We are not all the same. There is only one truth, one Lord, one God; everything else is false.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.