An Idol is Anything That’s Not God

Festal homily of Bishop Grigorije of Düsseldorf and Germany (here), on the feast of the Holy Prophet Elijah the Tishbite:

Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You! Today, brothers and sisters, we celebrate the great and glorious Prophet Elijah. A lot can be said about him based of the Gospel we have just read, but I will say only a few things about why Elijah was so great and famous like few others. After the death of the great King David, who served God gloriously and faithfully, apart from what Holy Scripture says about what he did to Uriah the Hittitie, he served God gloriously and in an orthodox manner. And then, as it often happens in this world, weaker emperors follow who erect idols in the high places and make more prostrations to them than to God. Then the glorious and fearful Prophet Elijah appeared. And what did the Prophet Elijah do? Elijah killed the false priests and overthrew the idols, but he first prepared himself for it with a great spiritual feat which was his podvig.

You are now asking yourself, as we stand in this church, what are these idols? That’s very interesting brothers and sisters. An idol is anything that’s not God. We can make idols out of everything, out of our bodies, out of our clothing. The church can be an idol, so can the priesthood and the episcopate. Especially, in our day, we see how some false spiritual fathers turn into idols. Imagine then what kind of caricature it would be to worship and bow down before politicians?! Presidents, as if they are idols?! An even greater caricature is when someone appears on television and because they know to jump, dance and sing, they become idols. An athlete and knows to hit or kick the ball becomes an idol. We make idols out of all that, brothers and sisters, and we look silly before God and ourselves.

But the worst thing that can happen to us is if we make idols out of ourselves. If we start worshiping ourselves as idols, thinking that we are someone or something without God. When is the Church a place of salvation? When God is in it. When is a bishop, a priest something or someone? When God is in them. When is a man someone or something? When God is in them. When is a man who fights for the people – a politician, let’s say – someone or something? When God is in them, when God’s truth is in them. Anything else and anything beyond that is idolatry. Everything except serving God, the Living God, the One whom David served, the One who – as it was pleasing to the Father and through the might of the Holy Spirit – came into this world to save us.  See what an idol nation it is brothers and sisters. Everyone loves their nation, everyone loves their family, that’s quite normal, but we must not make an idol out of family and nation, because idols fall, idols are broken, idols disappear. Why does it say in today’s gospel reading that Elijah did not go to anyone except the widow in Zarephath, and no one was healed by a prophet except Naaman, who was a Syrian, he wasn’t a Jew, he was not from the nation of prophets.

These days I often listen and I deliberately say everything that’s contrary to that idolatry. Who will win: the Russians or the Ukrainians? Are we for Putin or Zelensky? How shameful for us Christians! We are for Christ and for nothing else, and no one else and we do not worship anyone else and we don’t fear anyone else and we don’t attribute divine qualities to anyone else, because we are afraid of falling into idolatry. If we fall into idolatry some Elijah will come and kill us with his right hand. That’s why, as much as is needed let us worship God and rush into His embrace and love. How fearful we should of idols lest we fall into idolatry. How shameful for a Christian to faint when they see some singer or athlete?! Even more shameful is it to worship some miserable and timid politician?! Let them live their lives, let them lie to whomever they wish, but if we are Christians then we must follow Elijah and destroy all idols, both in ourselves and around us.

May you be blessed today and all the days of your life. Amen.

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