(Acts 16 : 1 6–34)
Holy epistle encourages us to think about something we do not think of very often, something we do not consider an important or serious issue. I am referring to soothsaying, fortune telling, magic, etc.
Many of us, after finishing our cup of coffee, half jokingly, half seriously turn the cup over so that someone will “look into the cup” and tell them the future. It is rare to find someone who has not, even just for fun, held out his hand for palm reading. I am sure most of us are not aware that by doing this we are committing a sin. The gravity of the sin depends on how much significance we ascribe to it.
In these dark and difficult times, if there was ever a time which was not dark and difficult, in these days of uncertainty and insecurity in which we live in, a lot of money can be earned and a good living made from the curiosity and insecurity of some individuals. Until recently, this kind of activity took place behind heavy curtains, in silence and darkness. Today, however, all this is done in the light of day with a lot of publicity. All over the city we can see the psychics’ stores with huge ads on them, not to mention the commercials on TV channels and in newspapers.
All this is nothing new to the world. Even in the times of the Apostles, as we saw, some individuals made money off other people’s misfortunes. “Now it happened,” relates St. Luke the Evangelist, “as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling” (Acts 16:16). She cried out after them and this made the Apostles greatly annoyed. Then Paul drove the spirit of divination from her. “But when her masters saw that the hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities” (Acts 16:19). There the Apostles fared terribly, for they were beaten with rods and were thrown into the darkest dungeon.
This event in the Gospel gives us reason to reflect on fortune telling seriously and responsibly, as true Christians. Today, more than ever, we are aware of the presence of innumerable gurus, sect leaders, and other perpetrators of happiness, although there have never been more unhappy people on this planet than there are today. Even some miracles take place from time to time, and many people are fooled by these miracles. This is where the danger is, brothers and sisters. We often forget, because it is more comfortable for us that way, that evil spirits really do exist and that they are quite powerful. The prophet Isaiah says of the devil that he “makes the earth tremble and shakes kingdoms” (Is. 14:16). St. Paul calls the one whose name we do not want to utter “the ruler of the darkness of this age” (Eph 6:12). Sometimes people confide in me that strange things happen to them. Things start going wrong out of the blue, for no reason at all. They ask me whether it’s possible that someone has cast an evil eye on them, because incidentally, they keep finding these strange objects around their home, or they feel that things started going wrong since so-and-so crossed the threshold of their home. I always answer what I believe: that the Evil One is on the job at all times and has many helpers.
Always read the Holy Scriptures, read them over and over again. Each one of us should read at least one selection daily. Let us strive to live with the word of God, which is our weapon and our beacon in the darkness of this age. The Lord Himself tells us that even “false christs will appear and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See , I have told you beforehand,” He says (Mt. 24:24-25). And He gives us this fatherly advice: “Take heed, that no one deceives you” (Mt. 4:4).
Many people are unwittingly playing with fire. By the time they come to our senses, it is usually too late. It first starts with curiosity and fun: an overturned cup of coffee, an outstretched palm. Then they begin to experiment with cards, which takes them to a darkened room and the psychic’s crystal ball. By then they are already well in the clutches of the Evil One. If one does not sober up immediately, it is usually too late – one has sold his soul to the devil. And there is no easy escape from the claws of the devil.
Fortune telling is a much graver sin than what we think. God created and ordered this world in such a way that was pleasing to Him. If He had wanted mankind to be able to tell the future, be assured that this is exactly how He would have created us. A violation of God’s plans and His will is certainly a very grave sin. “And when they say unto you, seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter: should not a people seek unto their God for the living to the dead?” (Is. 8:19). St. Paul calls fortune tellers the sons of the devil and enemies of all righteousness who are forever perverting the straight ways of the Lord (Acts. 13:10). God has no mercy for such people. Outside the ways of the Lord are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie (Rev 22:15).
The Evil One employs all kinds of tactics to deceive the gullible. Whenever I meet people who have had any kind of experience with fortune tellers, they always tell me that the psychics advised them to go to church and perform certain actions, even to give donations, all this in order to pass for pious. Please, brothers and sisters, do not let yourselves be fooled! Doesn’t the holy Apostle Paul warn us precisely of these false Apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor 11:13-14).
“Neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times” (Lev. 19:26) is one of the commandments the Lord gave man at the very beginning of the history of mankind. “There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do those things are an abomination unto the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee” (Deut. 18:10-12).
Holy epistle warns us against the sin of fortune telling. If any one of us has, by chance, had anything to do with this kind of activity, or is still, God forbid, practicing it in any way, let us stop immediately so that the Lord does not turn His face away from us.