The Wrong Turn of Religion
Meditation for Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
(1Kg 18:20-39; Mt 5:17-19)
Religion promises to care for the good of man, from life here on earth to life beyond. But at the wrong turn of religion, it can bring about unimaginable disaster to humanity. Faith in God is sublime, it nourishes the mind and uplifts the heart. It can lead the human person to stability and great achievements. But at the wrong turn of religion, when doctrines are misconceived, and religion is used as tool for the kingdom of man rather than for the kingdom of God, it becomes a scourge unto man and spreads like a virus.
Think about how the worship of Baal, with its numerous prophets, dehumanized Israel. Elijah had to run for his dear life. Like every wrong turn of religion or false belief, the prophets of Baal were numerous, noisy and forceful. The people seemed to be held captive and confused, they could no more air their view. While true faith guarantees freedom, the wrong turn of religion stiffens its followers, and does not allow variety or freedom of expression. Man steps into religion to discover himself in God. But false belief tries to discover God in man, and by so doing, man loses himself by false divinization of himself!
Then, pride sets in to make up for the emptiness within and fear of being found out. Think about how much the prophets of Baal assumed for themselves! Imagine the audacity with which they embraced Elijah’s contest! Elijah said to them, “And you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” The false worshipers called and called, but there was no answer; they applied several physical gestures to twist Baal to do their will, but there was no answer. Elijah even mocked them, adding zeal to their pride, which exposed their emptiness more, and leading to their destruction.
On his own part, Elijah humbly set up the traditional altar of the Lord in the name of the twelve tribes of Jacob, “To whom the word of the Lord came, saying, ‘Israel shall be your name.’” In other words, he built the altar on the authority of the word of God. After the preparing the bull, plenty jars of water were poured on it. Water supposed to be obstacle to fire, but Elijah wanted to show that nothing can stop the fire of God! He invoked God’s name, calling Him the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then Elijah expressed his submission to the will God, saying, “Let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.”
“Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt offering…” The people felt liberated, and gave their free profession of faith, saying, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” In the gospel of today, Jesus declares that He came to complete what was begun in the prophets. As Elijah was a messenger through which the people of old acknowledge and worshipped the true God, so much so is Jesus Christ ‘God among us’, our Mediator, through whom our prayers answers. The love of Jesus is the new fire that overcomes every obstacle, and takes our steps away from the wrong turn of religion. Amen.
Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Tedi-Muwo, Ojo, Lagos.
Wednesday June 8th, 2022.