God or Idols?

by Pope Francis

The Evangelist Matthew tells us that the Magi, when they came to Bethlehem, saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him (2:11).

Worshipping God is not something we do spontaneously. True, human beings have a need to worship, but we can risk missing the goal. Indeed, if we do not worship God, we will worship idols. There is no middle way, it is either God or idols.

[Isaiah tells us the first step in worshipping God:] Lift up your eyes and look around (Isaiah 60:4).

To the community of Jerusalem, recently returned from exile and disheartened by great challenges and hardships, the prophet Isaiah addresses these powerful words of encouragement.

He urges them to lay aside their weariness and complaints, to escape the bottleneck of a narrow way of seeing things, to cast off the dictatorship of the self, the constant temptation to withdraw into themselves and their own concerns.

In order to worship the Lord, we first have to lift up our eyes. In other words, not to let ourselves be imprisoned by those imaginary specters that stifle hope, not to make our problems and difficulties the center of our lives.

This does not mean denying reality or deluding ourselves into thinking that all is well. On the contrary, it is a matter of viewing problems and anxieties in a new way, knowing that the Lord is aware of our troubles, attentive to our prayers and not indifferent to the tears we shed.

This way of seeing things, a way which, despite everything, continues to trust in the Lord, gives rise to filial gratitude. When this happens, our hearts become open to worship.

Lift up your eyes, look around and see. The Lord asks us first to trust in him, because he truly cares for everyone.

If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he provide for you (cf. Lk 12:28).

If we lift up our eyes to the Lord, and consider all things in his light, we will see that he never abandons us. The Word became flesh (cf. John 1:14) and remains with us always, for all time (cf. Mt 28:20). Always.

When we lift up our eyes to God, life’s problems do not go away. No. Instead, we feel certain that the Lord grants us the strength to deal with them.

The first step towards an attitude of worship, then, is to lift up our eyes. Our worship is that of disciples who have found in God a new and unexpected joy.

Worldly joy is based on wealth, success, or similar things, always with ourselves at the center. The joy of Christ’s disciples, on the other hand, is based on the fidelity of God, whose promises never fail, whatever the crises we may face.

Filial gratitude and joy awaken within us a desire to worship the Lord, who remains ever faithful and never abandons us.

Excerpted from the pope’s homily for Epiphany, January 6, 2021