Monday, March 24, 2014

Magic to Do

Today's first reading , the cure of Naaman by the prophet Elisha, seems to simple. Even though he as what we would call a Syrian, a servant convinces him to go to Israel to be cured of his leprosy. Here it may be worth noting that in biblical times, the fear of leprosy was so great any skin disease from eczema to actual leprosy (hanson's disease) could get you declared a leper.

Regardless of the condition, he is told by Elisha to go and wash in the river 7 (the perfect number that represented God) times. If his servants hadn't stopped him he would have gone home uncured for the dumbest reason in the world. It was too easy.

He wanted spectacle. He wanted the prophet to do something, or to require him to do something extraordinary.

Are we different today? How many people don't believe in our sacraments because they are too simple? Even Harry Potter casts his spells in Latin. We took down the altar rail, we changed the language of mass to the language of the people, we simplified the costumes, we let lay people touch the host. And like Naaman, people drifted away. Even the sacrament of reconciliation seems too simple. The penances priests give aren't extraordinary.

People are hungry for the transcendent, the supernatural. Just turn on your television. How many TV shows are there about the subject? We have latest additions of Resurrection and Believe, along side the older Supernatural, Vampire Diaries,etc. etc.,etc.

If only we could get the chalice to bubble or the host to glow. If we could get a little electricity to arc when we say the prayer of absolution. There are those who think that if we would just go back to chanting in Latin, more incense, and priests in more costumes, churches would fill up.

Today's first reading reminds us that real faith is not based on that. Did Jesus establish a Church and a priesthood? Yes. Are there particular words and actions by which we invoked the Holy Spirit? Yes. Elisha did after all require him to do something.

But our faith presents the extraordinary in the most ordinary ways. Bread, wine, water, oil, the essentials for sacraments are simple, ordinary every day objects.

Do we have the faith that allows us to see the extraordinary in the ordinary? Can we, in this Lenten season, open our hearts to accept that the words of absolution are enough, the words of consecration are enough, the simple words of baptism are enough, to produce nothing less than a miracle right in front of our eyes. Can we believe in something we cannot see?

It's ok to doubt. Naaman probably didn't really expect anything. He may have just bathed in the river because he wanted to eg this servants to quit nagging him. But he did it. He took the leap of faith.

Look around and see the presence of God in the little things. If you haven't been to church in a while, go. If you haven't been to confession, go. Just do it. Take the leap of faith. There may be no magic, but there will be grace.