Thursday, January 14, 2016

Turning God into an Idol

It happens in both of today's Mass readings, and it can happen today. Turning the Living God (or as the first reading from 1 Samuel 4 put it, "the Lord of Hosts who is enthroned upon the cherubim") into an idol (first reading) or a golden goose (Gospel).

In the first reading, the Israelite army is having a bad day. Defeated by the Philistines, they decide to force God's hand: carrying the Ark of the Covenant (understood to be God's throne--with God still seated on it!) onto the battlefield. They attempt to turn God into their servant, to wield his power like a tool in their own hands. (It didn't work out the way they intended.)

Rembrandt: Christ heals the leper.
Fortunately, the flip side (a right relationship with the Living God) is portrayed for us in the Gospel. "If you will it, you can make me clean," said the leper on his knees before Christ. And, surprisingly enough, God (in the form of a servant) does bend to the will of his suppliant: "Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand..." The idol-making instinct is not totally overcome, however: as word spread about the miraculous cure of the leper, people came crowding in on Jesus to the point that he was banished (leper-like) far from the populated areas, though "people kept coming to him from everywhere."

St James wrote (scornfully) about people who complain that God does not hear their prayer, when the problem is they are praying "amiss" (Jas 4:2-3). Today's Morning Prayer today seemed to have the answer, starting with the first Psalm (57): "Have mercy on me, you my soul has taken refuge."

1 comment:

Sr. Ann Marie said...

Good reflection! I think perhaps we do much the same thing when we "use" God as the reason--or the excuse--for our turning away or condemning people whose beliefs are different from ours.