Memorial of St. Boniface, bishop and martyr
(Tobit 3:1-11a.16-17a; Mark 12:18-27)
An incident in the life of St. Boniface is reminiscent of the first reading today. Boniface was an eighth century English monk who became a missionary to what is now northern Holland and Germany. In evangelizing the native tribes, he came across an ancient oak tree that was sacred to their god Thor. Boniface cut down the oak tree, and when the people saw that Thor was not going to punish the deed, they abandoned their pagan beliefs.
The story recalls the supposed curse on the maiden Sarah in the Book of Tobit. The obviously pedagogical tale speaks of the distressed woman whose seven husbands die before consummating their marriage. She is said to be cursed by the demon Asmodeus whose influence will be expelled by the angel Raphael’s fish oil.
The stories taken together advises us on the grip superstition often has on people. It should never deter us from doing what is right. The question of the occult gives some pause here, but it is true that most of the time where demons are supposedly involved the root of the difficulty is superstitious belief. Superstition, a sin against the First Commandment, must be resisted. If it continues to bother us, we should pray for courage to confront it squarely.