God is not magic
So said a character in the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
So thought the People of Israel in today’s first reading (1 Samuel 4:1-11):
"Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies."
This they did
and when the dust of battle had cleared,
the Army of Israel was defeated, losing 30,000 soldiers,
and the Ark of the Lord was captured by the pagans.
What went wrong?
First of all, God is not magic: he is the King of Universe and not someone to be manipulated or used like a magic wand to get the things we want or think we need.
Second, although sacred places and sacred things have a role in our relationship with God, the most critical elements of our relationship with God are his grace and our fidelity.
The elders of Israel in today’s reading asked the right question but came up with the wrong answer, overlooking their own impiety and disobedience.
This reading also reminds of the importance of prudence and courage: the Israelites not only lacked fidelity, they also lacked prudence, while the courage of the Philistines carried the day.
As you and I go through the challenges and battles of our own lives, may we be as prudent and courageous as we can, but most of all may we faithful to the Lord and focused on drawing ever closer to him no matter what.