Faith by numbers

Faith by numbers

I DON’T understand why supposedly prayerful, polite, educated, civilized persons would forward chain messages (via Messenger) that urge you to pray, and then to pass on the same prayer to a number of people in order to be divinely rewarded.  Here’s just one example:  “jesus christ is giving you mystery to take care of your family, you will give good news after 29 minutes nag try ako totoo, swerte daw ang makabasa nito kya pinasahan kita. Panginoon tulungan mo kami na malutas ang aming mga problema, bukas andyan na yong good news. Please sacrifice huwag mo tong buburahin hanggat di mo naipapasa sa 25 na tao. start now.”  There’s also one that urges you to make a wish and then pray just one Hail Mary, but it ends with “send this novena to 30 persons including me.  Don’t break the chain, you wish will not be granted.”  And there are so amny others similar in purpose and in tone.

There’s no doubt the sender means well (I close my eyes to the ridiculous claims), but I can’t help wondering: why the particular numbers 25, 29, 30, or sometimes 18, 9 12, et al.  Have the superstitions about numbers crept into our consciousness, too, like for instance the Chinese?  Or is there something about their beliefs that needs to be “adjusted” by proper catechism?

A broker friend of mine complains that “It’s very difficult to sell condo units with numbers that end in “4” because, as she rightly concludes, majority of condo buyers are Chinese investors, and that is also why condominium developers build high rises without a fourth floor.  In fact, their elevators skip the fourth floor.  The Chinese believe “4” is an “unlucky number” because it sounds like the word for “death”.  My broker friend observes “Nag-uunahan yung mga intsik sa units with number 8 because for them it’s a very lucky number. In fact the units on the 8th floor sell fastest, and sometimes even at a higher price.”   Interesting to note that many elevators also skip the 13th floor, “13” being believed as an unlucky number, this time by Americans.

It is reported that the United States loses about a billion dollars on a Friday, the 13th.  The normally acquisitive American wouldn’t want to make a major purchase—car, house, boat, etc.—or sign a major contract on a Friday that falls on the 13th of the month.  “It’s bad luck”, a thought that has magnified into a phobia that has seemed to affect the rest of the civilized world, including numerologists.

One numerologist I know is a devout Catholic, but who sincerely, really sincerely believes there are “auspicious dates” for making big decisions or moves.  He once cautioned me against flying on a certain date I had decided to fly.  I didn’t listen to him because, as I teasingly spoke his language, “I have my own superstitions about numbers.  No number is a bad number for me; they all bring me good luck.  Try me.  Pick any number from 1 to 10.”

He said, “Four, the dreaded number.”   Easy, I quipped: four ends of the cross, proof of God’s love for us, reaching out to all four corners of the earth, east, west, north, south.  “Eight?”  Infinity—on and on and on, like the love of God.  “Six?”  Mary, the six-point star Star of Israel.  “Three?”  The Indwelling Trinity.  “Five?”  Jesus’ wounds on the cross.

I interrupted our little game by playfully volunteering related information using his own science: “Our house stands on a rock, supported by 12 concrete posts—12 apostles.  From the street level to living room entrance you climb 39 steps—the 39 lashes Jesus suffered.  Our house is a simple box—four corners for the ground floor plus 4 corners for the second floor equals eight corners, infinity, remember?  Our street address is number 41:  “4” represents M (as in Mary), the 13th letter of the alphabet, 1+3=4; and “1” represents J (as in Jesus or Joseph), the 10th letter of the alphabet, 1+0=1.  You want more of my superstitions?  So don’t try to scare me with yours!”

It would be nice to study biblical numerology but really, I believe we don’t need such knowledge to rise above the petty threats of chain messages, or to brush aside the sincere but unnecessary anxieties of our “psychic” friends.  Just as all roads lead to Rome, for me all numbers lead to Jesus.  Then I can embrace as His will whatever comes.  And that’s the truth.