Sunday, 23 May 2010
New Age, Pentecost, Shaftesbury
I don’t think I’ve ever told you all this, but I once went out for a drink with a witch. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a witch and a priest out together for a drink, it’s not a common sight. But a few years ago I stumbled across an old school friend of mine I’d not seen in 20 years, and we went for a drink. Now, admittedly, you wouldn’t have recognised her as a witch, she’d left her hat and broomstick at home. But she nonetheless attempted to convince of the pagan art of Wicca: crystals, magic numbers, and star signs. And I explained that at best that was all a lot of baloney, and at worst it is an invitation to devil to enter your life, and that either way anyone who had been to a Catholic school the way we both had should have known better. I explained that I believed in Jesus instead.
When most of us were growing up, the only place you heard of witches was in fairy tales. But now, much the amazement of many of us, the old pagan superstitions are very much on the rise. Any bookshop will offer you a large range of such occult books and products, even if they fail to provide a single Bible. It’s all a perfect example of G.K. Chesterton’s old saying that: when people stop believing in God, it’s not that they come to believe in nothing, but that they end up believing in ANYTHING.
Modern witchcraft and the occult has a big attraction for many people today, in part, I think, because it offers a type of religion without any commitments, no demands.
We, however, as Catholics, need to be clear that this is not OUR religion, it’s not the truth. And we have to choose between superstition and the one true God.
Faith is in a person: Jesus Christ, not in numbers, stars and dates –Scripture condemns all these –they all attempts to control God, rather than trust in Him to control things for us.
Jesus is not like superstition –He is rational, sensible, trustworthy. And the Church puts forward rational reasons for us to have faith, reasons like the empty tomb to prove the Resurrection, like the design and order of the cosmos to prove the existence of God.
But what, you might be asking, does this have to do with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which is what we celebrate today? Well, it’s about the type of God that we believe the Holy Spirit to be.
A lot of the New Age books that you’ll find for sale among the New Age ‘Crystals’ will speak of spirits, and even of “The” Spirit. But it’s nothing like the Spirit we believe in. It is not the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The Spirit that Jesus taught us about, that He promised to send, is not just some vague thing flowing here and there. Yes, the Spirit blows where He wills, but that does not make Him some vague entity. It does not make Him vague, or unsure about what He is, or what He does.
Jesus referred to Him using quite concrete terms: “another helper”, “an Advocate”. The Holy Spirit is a definite person, one of the three persons of the Trinity, and because He is a person He can help you, love you, care for you, strengthen and guide you.
Now, if you are a Satanist explicitly worshipping the Devil, then you too have a ‘personal’ god, albeit a false god.
However, most modern witches don’t claim to worship the Devil, but they do have a problem with prayer, because for them prayer, ultimately, for them, is just navel-gazing, looking inside, stillness:
You cannot have a personal encounter with the God within –because that it’s just yourself. There is no personal God to pray to.
For a Christian, prayer is a personal ENCOUNTER, with the living Lord. The Holy Spirit does come and dwell INSIDE you, but He is a person distinct from you, who comes from outside of you. An encounter that He promised especially in the sacraments He gave us, like Holy Communion.
My friend, may not fly on a broomstick, but she is a witch nonetheless, and they are many like her. Followers of a restoration of the foolishness of the pagans.
We, need to be on guard not to be influenced by their ideas. The Christian God is very different. He is a rational, personal God –the Holy Spirit whose coming we pray for today.