After I graduated from Saint Louis University law school in 1982, my wife and I moved back to Peoria. At that time, my wife was pregnant with our second child. Shortly after returning to Peoria, I began teaching CCD classes on Sunday mornings at St. Sharbel Catholic Church to seventh- and eighth-grade students.
That year, as Christmas approached, I was asked to be Santa Claus at a Christmas party that was being planned for the children of the parish. At the party, I sat down on a throne-like chair, and the children lined up to sit on my lap and tell me what they wanted for Christmas.
There was one thing about my experience as Santa Claus that had a lasting impact on me. It was the look in each of the children’s eyes when they approached me. Each one of them looked at me with awe and admiration. It was as though they were looking at God Himself. I had never had anyone look at me the way those children looked at me.
I have to admit that the look in those children’s eyes made me feel special. Wouldn’t we all like to be looked at by others with awe and admiration?
There was a period of time after each of our children was born when they would gaze at my wife with awe and admiration. Although this period of time didn’t last very long, every time it happened my wife told me how good she felt when her newborn child looked at her as though she was the only person in the world.
Whether or not we are willing to admit it, we all have a deep desire to be admired and adored by others. Since the beginning of time, this desire has been used by Satan to tempt us. He has a lot of experience using this particular temptation. The first time he used it was when he tempted Eve to sin against God. He told her that if she did what he said, she would be like a god.
That’s the way I felt at that Christmas party — like a god who was being worshipped by children.
The temptation that we will be adored and glorified if we serve ourselves rather than God is extremely seductive. It is a direct appeal to our pride.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen taught that none of us can live without a god. When we reject God Almighty, we make ourselves into our own gods. We have a choice. We can either worship the one true God or we can worship ourselves. According to Sheen, we humans have a tendency to worship one or more of the following three gods:
Over the past 100 years, the worship of these false gods has been justified, supported, and encouraged by modern-day psychiatrists and thought leaders.
Last week I wrote about the Kardashians, the modern-day American goddesses who are admired by millions of young people. They, and numerous other celebrities who are just like them, fall within the above-mentioned criteria. They worship themselves and their money as gods.
According to Sheen, the person who falls into the trap of worshiping one of these false gods knows, at a spiritual level, that there is a tremendous disproportion between what he is and what he ought to be. Yet he is entangled and trapped in his own self-absorbed world. Like a fly that is caught in a spider web, the more he worships his false god, the more entangled he becomes in his own web of deceit.
The end result is that as he advances in age, he becomes boring, tiresome, and full of anxiety. Because he is unable to see beyond his earthly life, there is nothing ahead of him but ill health and death.
At that Christmas party more than 30 years ago, I enjoyed the feeling that came with being worshiped as a god for a day. I enjoyed being looked upon with awe and adoration.
But I don’t want to ever get caught in that trap. That’s one of the reasons I pray the Rosary and the Litany of Humility every day and do my best to attend daily Mass. I need all the help I can get to keep myself from succumbing to the temptation to elevate my body, mind, or business and money to the level of a false god.