Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 11:4-13; Mark 7:24-30)
In the ancient churches of Europe natural images are often found in the detail work on ceilings and cornices. Critics of Christianity are wont to characterize these images as pagan resistance to Christian dominance. A historian of medieval times recently published an essay debunking this theory. He writes that the inspiration for these images is varied and not likely a pagan revolt. In any case the readings today provide an ambivalent assessment of pagan culture.
I Kings reports how Solomon was corrupted by his pagan wives. The fact that he had more than one wife is itself a sign of decadence. But that he built shrines to pagan gods and even worshipped those gods is truly outrageous. The pagan woman who comes to Jesus for help, however, testifies to pagan openness to Christian worship God. She recognizes Jesus as God’s emissary by calling him “Lord.” She also expresses humility as she acknowledges Jews as God’s chosen people. In face of such incipient Jesus cures her sick child.
We note a resurgence of paganism in our time. It seems to stem from people being restless and disenchanted with established Christianity. Their beliefs and rituals may seem weird, but we should judge them by their works. Many Christians struggle to accept all the beliefs the Church holds. Rather than condemn those who veer from Christ, let us strive to give sterling example. Let us show tolerance and, indeed, love so that they may return to Christ.