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January 6, 2020


Most often than not, whenever I would open my social media, I would certainly see Korean groups on my news feed posted by friends. I would see them sing along with the music I don't understand. Their fashion would be K-Pop-inspired. Some would really spend a big chunk of money to watch concerts. They would even fly abroad to follow their biases. And moreso, whenever I would ask my students what is their dream vacation, they would answer: “To go to Seoul, Korea.”


I may not be a K-pop fan but I have my fair share of fanboy-ing. I can still remember how I would be late for my classes in college just to finish the season finales of the US versions of Survivor and The Amazing Race. While others would go gaga with milk tea, tasting every variant there is, I would spend for samgyupsal and iced coffee.

With all these fads, crazes and trending cultures around us, how can we still identify what is idolatrous and what is not?

For Catholics, this month of January is but as colorful as December. January 9 is Traslacion. Millions would flock to “the” Quiapo Church and express their tireless devotion to the Black Nazarene or the Nazareno. The image of Christ carrying His cross would draw millions of devotees from different parts of the country. The image has been a symbol of hope, mercy and healing.

That’s in Metro Manila, while in the islands of Visayas would be the colorful festivals on the third Sunday of January. In honor of the feast of Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus, Cebu will hold its annual Sinulog; Aklan would have their Ati-atihan; Iloilo would have their Dinagyang. Philippine history would tell us that Magellan offered the image of Sto. Niño as a baptismal gift to Hara Amihan, wife of Cebu’s Rajah Humabon who will eventually be known as Queen Juana.

These religious traditions are both loved and criticized. Loved as concrete expressions of Filipino faith but criticized for their tendency to promote mere fanaticism that may lead to idolatry.

The First Commandment tells us that there is only ONE God and He must be the only one to be worshipped. If we will be religiously faithful to this commandment, it is to protect us from committing idolatry.

Catechism of the Catholic Church or CCC 2113 tells us, “Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon."

Basically, idolatry is putting anything or anyone above God.

Why do Catholics have statues and images? Why have the Nazareno and the Sto Niño images?
Many would presume that having graven images is by itself committing idolatry but in the Scriptures, God Himself commanded making statues, such as the two golden cherubim (Exodus 25:18-20), David’s ark of the covenant (1 Chronicles 28:18-19) and Moses’ bronze serpent (Numbers 21:8-9).

Catholics use statues and images only as a reminder of their longing for heaven and desire to be holy like Mary and the saints. They serve as catechetical tool. In the early Church, these were used as instructional tools for the illiterate.

Catholics do not adore statues, we only venerate them. We respect them as adoration is only reserved for God.

Embrace temperance. Temperance is consciously being moderate with “created” things. As the old cliche goes, “Too much of anything is bad.” Controlling our worldly desires is the key.

Be Christ-centered. Be always reminded that in everything we do, it should always glorify Jesus. Otherwise, forget it.

To be a K-Pop fan is okay, to love milk tea is ok ... but to lavishly offer all your time and energy to these created things and forget about God, then it becomes idolatry.

Let us always remember what Pope Francis said: “Worshipping God means learning to be with Him, to strip ourselves of our hidden idols and choose God as the centre of our lives.”

That in all things God may be glorified!

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