Daily Reflection
November 11th, 2005

Tom Shanahan, S.J.

University Relations and the Theology Department
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Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, bishop

Wisdom 13:1-9
Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5ab
Luke 17:26-37

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom is the beginning of a long section that is a strong indictment against idolatry. Today’s reading is found near the end of this very late book of the Old Testament (written about 100 years before the time of Christ).

The author points out here that people who are ignorant of God are “foolish” because they see the good things of God’s creation and yet they do not take the next and most important step: to realize that there is a God who created the beauties of our world. It is as if they get stuck in the thing of beauty and do not discover the God who lies behind it (“from studying the works [they] did not discern the artisan”). And even further the reading goes on to remark that they were so beguiled by the things of creation (“fire or wind or the swift air or the circuit of the stars or the mighty water”) that they made these good things gods. The author of the Book of Wisdom sees this as the very first step that leads to idolatry.

On the other hand we know that to see God as the maker of all that is does indeed give us a grand insight into the beauty and magnificence of God. The issue for us, it seems, is not to get stuck in creation and to miss the Creator.

For most of us who are reading this, I suspect, the temptation is not to worship a tree or an animal, a mountain, a lake, the stars, or any other part of the universe in which we live. No, our temptation (to idolatry) is possibly more subtle than that and thus harder to detect. Where do we look for the ways that we get sidetracked?

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius alerts us quite adequately. In the Principle and Foundation Ignatius lays out a plan for dealing with created things:

1. That created things are there for us to come to a discovery of God and our salvation.
2. That we ought to freely use these things of creation insofar as they lead us to God.
3. That we ought to freely avoid the use of these things insofar as they lead us away from God.
4. And, finally, that there is wisdom in the freedom to know the difference between the use and the avoidance of the world of God’s creation.

Underlying the words of the Book of Wisdom and the Exercises of Ignatius is the recognition of how we are wonderfully blessed by God in the goodness of the created universe and the fact that such a blessing comes directly from God the Creator.

Lord God teach us the wisdom to be open to the wonders of your love in your creation. Continue to invite us into your love and life through the good things you have so generously given to us. Keep us faithful in our ongoing search for You in those gifts.

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