Last week, while visiting New York City, I walked through St Patricks Cathedral. It is everything you expect. The building is massively overwhelming and overwhelmingly intricate. The cathedral’s cruciform shape has an altar prominently positioned in the nave and raised in the direction of heaven. The altar is enshrined in gold and surrounded by angels. Throughout the building, you’ll see the saints hosting various shrines, imagery, and relics of heavenly trophies. It’s amazing. Awesome, even. All of it.
I stood at the entrance gazing down the long hall, wondering how many people think about Jesus. More importantly, how many people considered the sacrifice he made? How many people came and found God? That is the risk, of course, that we may go and find awe but miss what really matters. The hope and solace of Jesus Christ. This is what Moses is warning us against today. He knows that we are likely to take these most beautiful things like gold and saints and fantastic architecture and turn them into something they are not. Beware, he says, “that you may be drawn to them and serve them” (Deut 4:19). Do you see it? We are likely to bow down and serve the created thing over the creator. it’s easier. It’s tangible. It feels real. But, the created things have no power.
Dig a little deeper and review the mission statement of the St. Patricks Cathedral. There, it says that these things – this cathedral – are brought to us for one purpose. That it may “call us to respond to our shared humanity – one in the image and likeness of God, saved by his Son, Jesus Christ, in the family of the Church”.