I hardly need to spell out the quotation because its last word is enough for most people to remember the statement in full : “The ways of the Lord are impenetrable”. The meaningless mantra, which is not even biblical, is used and abused to wind up accounts of some stunning or “miraculous” event, which leaves the believer overwhelmed by something that defies understanding even its purpose. The event may have been tragic, resulting in a reinforcement of resignation (“ours not to reason why”) or, on the contrary, extraordinarily good news, reinforcing belief in a God who continues to surprise by His power and goodness. One way or another it recalls for us how incapable we are of grasping the Transcendent. It cuts us down to size, as we remind ourselves of the puniness of our minds compared with God’s infinite intelligence.
A clever ploy, actually. It stops further discussion with a statement of rock-solid faith that can neither be shaken nor questioned. It is also a cop-out, a refusal to put into question a given fantastic phenomenon, purported to be true, which, because unexplained, like the “miracles” supposedly resulting from divine or Marian random selection in curing lucky winners in the Lourdes lottery, is presumed to be unexplainable.
Belief in miracles is a main-stay for many people’s faith. Some “miracles” make a certain amount of sense, at least as dramatic elements in fictional, biblical sagas like the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea to save the Chosen People from their Egyptian slave-masters, or as touching stories of Jesus’ compassion in healing the sick. Others, like the Sun (not the Earth ?) standing still at Fatima, are not only incredible but just plain ridiculous. That 8th century story about bits of Christic flesh appearing on the eucharistic wafer after the everyday “miracle” of transubstantiation, however, wins the Oscar for brain-numbing absurdity. It is particularly worthy of attention, not only because some believers today including at least one reader of this blog, still actually believe it happened, but because it reveals a pathetic credulity in a God whose ways are not only impenetrable but literally lunatic. Why, for chrissake, would God want to reinforce a uniquely Catholic superstition that bread really becomes the Body of Christ, when anything but a symbolic understanding (itself weird, to say the least) inevitably leads to the accusation of divinely sanctioned cannibalism ? It is – be it said in passing – a blatant rhetorical gambit to expect seriously that anyone in his right mind would waste his time “investigating” the “authenticity” of such rubbish. Roswell, UFOs perhaps, but not mini-Jesus burgers.
Not only are the ways of the Lord impenetrable. The blind gullibility of fanatical believers is something rational people can never hope to understand.