Sermons

Summary: I think it may be true: More people believe in Murphy than believe in a loving God seen in Jesus Christ.

Believe in God, or Murphy?

Friday of the 18th Week in Course 2020

If we had been Assyrians in the time during and after 612 years before Christ, roughly the time of the prophecy of Nahum, what would we be thinking and feeling? Nineveh, capital of Assyria at that time, had been besieged for months by a combined force of Medes and Babylonians, and had fallen, perhaps with the fighting going from house to house, street to street. You see, the Assyrian army was a bloody thing, tramping from country to country and building up ramps for their siege engines, overthrowing kings and peoples and sometimes even beheading whole populations. They were hated in their time like no other nation had been hated. When they attacked a nation, as with the northern kingdom, Israel, in 720 BC, they would propagandize the people first. Their god was named Assur. See, the people of Assyria worshiped as god their nation. There was an identity between them. So when they wanted to mount propaganda, they would name all the peoples that they had conquered, and tell their target audience, “Our god, Assur, was greater than the gods of all these nations. Our god is the strongest and we will prove it by destroying you and your gods, so surrender now and we won’t treat you so badly.” They ruled an empire from Sudan to the Persian Gulf, and northward almost to the Black Sea.

So when their empire fell, and they in turn were made slaves, surely they would have said, “God, what god? There is no god.” In a world of many gods, a nation’s god is either the greatest, or he doesn’t exist. If the people have food and health and wealth, obviously their god is favoring them beyond all others. If there is catastrophe, either another god has conquered their god, or their god was a phantasm in the first place, and really doesn’t exist.

If you listened to our President’s State of the Union address in January, 2020, you heard boasting. Now he had good reason to be happy with the state of the U.S., particularly the economy, because unemployment was low, job participation high, and historically underemployed populations were at work. Wages were increasing and consumer confidence was strong. The whole country was pretty fat and pleased with itself, and that lasted, oh, another month or so until the Wuhan virus started taking hold and the economy came to a lurching halt. Predictably, especially with churches closed everywhere, people began to despair. Suicide rates increased; domestic abuse cases did the same, but child abuse reporting dropped because the children were not being observed by their teachers. Atheism was on the rise, not because God no longer existed, but because lots of people had been acting as if there was no god, that they and their politicians were making things wonderful, and so they could lie, cheat and steal without guilt or punishment. Today there are more professed atheists and agnostics–who are just scared atheists–than we’ve seen in a half-century. And we are not better off for it.

Those who continue to believe in God, Jesus Christ, know that He is on our side, and our suffering has meaning when joined to His. We know that there is always hope, because our hope is in God’s mercy and intention to bring us to Himself, and in the Resurrection of the just on the last day.

What I have found, however, is that many people, when something goes wrong, agree with me saying “Well, Murphy lives.” Of course, for those who don’t get the allusion, Murphy’s Law is just a practical application of the second law of thermodynamics: the disorder of a system is never less in the long run. The law says, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

But that’s really sad, isn’t it. More people believe in Murphy than believe in a loving God seen in Jesus Christ. I know that sounds wrong, but do the experiment yourself. It seems to be true at lease on a day-to-day basis. People see the influence of this mysterious Murphy more than the living God in Christ. I contend that this is a modern version of the old heresy called Manicheism, something St. Augustine toyed with before his baptism a millennium and a half ago. Mani taught that there are two gods, always in contention, the god of Jesus, who ruled the spiritual, and the god of matter, whom we call “Murphy.” Matter is evil, and that’s why we get trouble.

But matter, limited as it is, subject to decay, is not evil. The reality is that Jesus, Son of God, became Son of Mary, really incarnate, really material. Through His passion, death and resurrection He raised the material up into the spiritual realm, restored it to the state God intended for it in the beginning. That process continues through the sacraments of the Church, using matter and the Word of God to make present the saving power of Christ to us.

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