Marvin Repinski: Thinking about Halloween and ghosts

Published 5:29 pm Friday, October 28, 2022

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“O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.” (Thomas Wolfe in his novel Look Homeward, Angel)

“Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence! (Shakespeare, Macbeth)

In Webster’s Dictionary, under the word “ghost” and its variants, is printed a wide usage and history of the term “ghost.” My impressions were, in part, formed by the movie, “Ghostbusters.” Add to that list of movies whose goal, I assume, was to scare the devil out of the viewer! I only laugh.

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Most people, I assume, are on the rational, “show-me” side of viewing reality. Embellishments, yes — we fall in line, and again this year the costume parties and haunted houses have appeared.

In the large world of religion and especially Christianity, there are a dozen options for every person. My observation. What I’m writing about today may not please everyone and that’s OK. In many of the traditions, beliefs, and practices of historical Christianity, I find a satisfying comfort.

A quotation: “Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than to patching leaks.”

An example of “leaks” in the time that the Bible is used to under gird sentiments and teachings that some of us may find as outdated, confusing, or self-serving habits or not acknowledging that the world of the Bible is not our present world.

(Now it’s back to ghost time — Halloween is in the air.)

We may sort out various ways the truths of scripture are communicated: historical, facts, allegory, parables, myth, hyperbole, drama, idioms, dreams, poetry, etc.

A study of the manner in which ghosts are pictured, action attributed to these shadow personalities give us an insight. We note the Bible, as a whole, may be read and interpreted by the serious believer in Revelations that God had established the way of salvation.

Examples of the belief in ghosts as, in its time, are Genesis 25:8, 35:29. Job 14:10, Acts 17:22. Several verses in the Bible refer to the soul or spirit of a dead person, or the reference to a disembodied spirit or one may account for a reference to a ghost as an apparition often believed to be a spiritual being.

Colossians 1:13 pleads for God to deliver the disciples “from the power of darkness.” Darkness, the abode of the ghosts. In reading and rereading the Bible, I also note the metaphors, similes, and puns.

A translation of the Bible that has numerous explanations and definitions that I find very helpful is “The New American Bible for Catholics.” It is a precious look and understanding of how a Catholic pilgrim — a member of fellow Christians — may appropriate the Christian story.

For instance, it records the historic record of the manner that people in past times — those I refer to have given us the Bible stories — cite two examples about ghosts; and there are more. It reveals the thinking patterns and ways of looking at life in a past generation.

In the book of “Mark,” several paragraphs are titled. The walking on the water: “Mark 6:45-52. Note the explanation of the disciples in their view of Jesus. “When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out.”

Again, to note the manner that happenings were embraced, is recorded in Luke 24:36-49 when Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.”

My suggestion is that we acknowledge and believe the Bible story noting the imagery, attributions, often in the manner that the writers saw it. We, in our time, note a time-processed message of the Good News. But apply, study, interpret the stories in making sense in our contemporary day. We best find our footing in the stories of the Scriptures while being aware of the manner of it existing in another time period. My conviction is that the justice and friendship of Jesus and the love of God is boldly given to us.

And about ghosts that were, by the disciples thought to exist, Jesus gives a veto. Jesus did not believe in ghosts, as he states in Luke 24:37-39. “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

The comprehension of the followers of Jesus thought in their way of expressing their form of thinking, “saw a ghost.” It was not a fantasy or surprising. The thinking of their day addressed the difficult or what made sense to them! But Jesus says to all of us, “touch me!”