A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Superstition will not save you

In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark an aged academician solemnly declares that "An Army that carries the Ark before it... is invincible."

It would seem that he (or more likely the talented but fallible screenwriter) never read today’s first reading (1 Samuel 4:1-11).

The scene presented by this reading would readily lend itself to cinematic spectacle: a cast of thousands in colorful battle array, the Israelites the classic heroes on the edge of defeat against the classic Philistine villains, the Ark of the Covenant brought forward with swirling incense and gleaming gold, the Israelites cheering like an earthquake and the Philistines cowering as the great climactic battle begins.

And then the Israelites lose.

What is worse, the sacred Ark is captured and carried away with the other spoils of war.

What happened? The people of Israel in that battle were being led by the despicable sons of Eli, young men who wallowed in theft, debauchery, and sacrilege.

Even at this moment of crisis, however, they chose not repentance but superstition: using the Ark of the Covenant as if it were a magic talisman.

Superstition operates only on the level of externals. True faith and true religion goes to and comes from the heart.

Superstition is focused on tangible outcomes. True faith and religion focuses on a relationship that is to extend through eternity: a personal relationship with God.

Superstition is a common human impulse, often associated with religion, but not exclusively (if I only wear black this week, my favorite sports team will win their next game).

Statistically, superstition will always eventually fail.

Only true faith and religion – by the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ – can save any of us in the long run, especially in the eternally long run.

As little children, it was especially easy to think of religion in superstitious ways. Sadly, some of us never totally grew out of that mindset: some who still practice their religion and some who have rejected all religion.

When I was a child,
I used to talk as a child,
think as a child,
reason as a child;
when I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
(1 Corinthians 13:11)

Sacred objects and sacred places are not magic things, even those things that are explicitly part of salvation history: they are to point us to God and to affirm the truth of God’s action in our world, all to help build up our relationship with God in faith by his grace.

It is important to stay out of the trap of superstition – both real superstition and the slander that all faith is superstition – and to grow by grace through true interior faith and true exterior religion together into the fullness of our eternal relationship with God.

(adapted from a previous post)