Following the Footsteps of Paul: Subject of Relics
In my last blog I talked about magic. I want to reflect for a moment upon the subject of relics. A relic is a bit of bone or cloth or any other substance that belonged to a saint. These materials, many have believed, hold within their essence some of the holiness of that saint and could effect a miracle, a healing or an answer to prayer. They have been sought after as treasure. Relics have also been big business for centuries. Wealthy people would pay huge sums and collect them. We have seen them encased in opulent containers of gold, sliver, diamonds, rare and precious beauty. These are called reliquaries. Popes and Cardinals would package a relic, seal it and send it with documents of authentication. Some of these religious people were unscrupulous businessmen who would not stop at using animal bones, if it was convenient for them, to make some money.
We spent a few days in Florence where we saw one of the largest and most astonishing collection of relics in all of Europe. They were gathered by the Medici family and are housed today in their former residence; the Pitti Palace. The Medicis lived and ruled from Florence for approximately 4 centuries. This collection is priceless and was a sign of their devotion, wealth, power and prestige.
What do we do with the idea of relics? There are some interesting moments in scripture when the bones or garments of an individual imparted power. A woman was healed by touching the garment of Jesus as he passed by. Peter’s shadow crossing over someone would heal in Acts 5:15. Have a look at the fascinating incident in 2Kings 13:21 when a dead body was thrown into the tomb of Elisha.
“Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.”
One can understand the fascination with the bones and the influence of men and women of God whose lives demonstrated the power and anointing of the Spirit of God. Many of them died for their faith and earned the title of Martyr. But we must be very cautious about attributing efficacious power to their remains. The source of power to do miracles never resides in an individual or an object. It always resides in the power and purpose of God which is often combined with the faith of an individual. The apostles always pointed to Jesus Christ as the source of miraculous power.
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