No place at this table

November 27, 2017

Infatuation, obsession, and worship.

But to whom or to what?

Since its inception, the Catholic Church has taught and reinforced the negative implications of idolatry. Our church leaders frown upon idolatry, or the worship of a physical object as a god, through religious fables and vivid homilies at mass, demonstrating to us Catholics the importance of recognizing this scourge from the past and present.

However many teenagers and young adults no longer relate to the evils of idolatry as they sit through Sunday mass listening to a homily about this insidious, nearly imperceptible disease. As humans living in the 21st century, we view idolatry and the stories focused around idolatry as nothing more than ancient history, a bygone that no longer holds the same place it once held in societies centuries ago.

However, a new form of idolatry has emerged in our society — egolatry, or a form of worship where your ego is your god.

Egolatry has become like an epidemic in our society, a place where younger generations, especially, have been affected profoundly. Due to advancements in technology, apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook allow us to view constantly other people’s possessions, thus putting us in place where we have to have the perfect face, body, car, clothes, and lifestyle.

And if perfect isn’t enough, we also must compete to be the best. Consequently, we become obsessed with ourselves and our lives, a focus that squarely places us in this egolatry epidemic.

“Some have even spoken of an egolatry, a worship of the self, on whose altar everything is sacrificed, even the most cherished human affections,” Pope Francis said. “This approach is far from harmless, for it induces people to gaze constantly in the mirror, to the point of being unable to turn their eyes away from themselves and towards others and the larger world.

“The spread of this approach has extremely grave effects on every affection and relationship in life.”

Consider the “selfie,” an activity where teens and adults no longer focus on taking a picture for the memory, but rather for their instagrams or snapchats. Many people even go so far as to focus the picture on themselves by cropping out other people that overtime causes an infatuation with oneself, which is the very essence of egolatry.

This obsession and love we create for ourselves causes a negative impact on our relationships. Humans from our generation, the iGen, no longer care or focus on important topics of consequence. As Pope Francis explained, we are no longer able to “turn our eyes away” from ourselves.

“This form of ‘pollution’ erodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions,” he said. 

If we are infatuated with ourselves, our relationships with God, family, and friends are endangered. Egolatry prohibits us from giving of our time, spirit, and heart because of the constant engagement and addiction to feeding our egos. This lack of time, spirit, and heart keeps us from giving ourselves fully to the relationships and people that surround us and our lives.

Our generation has forgotten the true meaning of service and thankfulness due to the egolatry present in our everyday lives.

The Catholic Church teaches us to serve others, to give back, and to give thanks. We no longer serve or give thanks because it is always about us and what we do or do not have.

“It is wrong that we allow the evil spirit to focus our minds on what we don’t have, rather than giving thanks for what we do,” Fr. Martin Latiff said during his Thanksgiving mass homily.

Paradoxically, idolatry is no more evident than on Thanksgiving, a sad truth indeed that plagues our society.

After a day in which we give “thanks” for our lives and everything that we have, 101.7 million Americans storm stores on Black Friday to shop, according to the website the Balance. Our holiday no longer focuses on spending time with our loved ones and appreciating our simple blessing.

Rather, our holiday has turned into a day where we rush rapidly into stores to buy more objects, idols if you will, because “we need them.” And why do we need them? Because they are the newest sweaters, laptops, shoes, or toys that we do not own and everybody else does.

Not only does our egolatry not stop there, but it invades Thanksgiving dinner itself in many households. We are so caught up with the pictures or videos of the food, the cousins, and grandparents that nobody really enjoys the meal.

Thanksgiving should be a day of praise and thanksgiving, one where egolatry should not occupy a chair at the table. Egolatry is an epidemic that saps awareness in our society, slowly swallowing up all that is good about our nation.

Despite being a growing problem, egolatry is easily solved by ironically enough looking in the mirror.

We are the solution to this growing problem because we are the ones desiring to “have more” since we are not satisfied with what we already have. Instead, we must reflect on the blessings that surround us like the God’s love and our families.

Egolatry is the modern form of idolatry that pollutes our society. And despite it being so present in our everyday lives, we must focus on the lives we are leading and the many gifts that surround us this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. By simply acknowledging our many blessings, we step forward toward eradicating a culture of egolatry and exchanging it for a culture of true thanksgiving.

When we make this paradigm shift, egolatry will fade and diminish like a ship’s beacon steaming toward the horizon.

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