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Is Veneration of the Relics of Saints Biblical? 

Both the Old and New Testaments show that the people of God gave great respect to the mortal remains and possessions of holy men and women.  When acts of veneration where given to these holy relics, it expressed respect for the deceased person who lived a holy life. More importantly, any honor given to the relics also expressed respect for God, who had revealed His power through this holy person and their participation in God’s work.  Throughout the scriptures, whenever devotion to a saint or their relics takes place, it is never described as idolatry or an obstacle to the worship of the one true God. Instead, honor given to the relics of a holy person, was an act of recalling what God had done through that holy person. Such veneration was seen as a display of faith in God.  

In the Bible, there are also many examples of miracles and cures connected with the “relics” of saints. However, the scriptures make clear that such miracles did not occur because the human bones or clothing contained some magic power by themselves. Instead, the miracles worked through these relics were done by God Himself, just as God had worked miracles through the person when they were alive. In these miracles, God continued to use that holy person (in life and death) to reveal His glory.  Likewise, as God used that holy person while alive to draw His people to deeper faith, through their mortal remains (relics), God continues to draw His people to deeper faith and holiness. The scriptures teach that in life and death, the saints give glory to God, not themselves.   

In the Old Testament, Joseph was considered a patriarch of the people of Israel, and a man through whom God had worked to save His people. The Book of Exodus tells of how Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, not leaving them to be lost or destroyed by the Egyptians (Ex 13:19). These were holy relics which were carried with great respect by the people of Israel on the journey to the Promised Land. In Second Kings, the prophet Elisha kept a portion of the cloak of the prophet Elijah as a relic when Elijah departed this world. Elisha would work a miracle with this holy relic by using it to part the River Jordan (2 Kings 2:9-14). Later in the same book, we hear that some people quickly buried a dead man in the same gave as the prophet Elisha. When the dead man touched the relics (bones) of the prophet, the dead man came back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21). 

In the New Testament, the gospel of Matthew tells of how a woman touched the fringe of the cloak of Jesus and was instantly cured of her illness (Mt 9:20-22). The Acts of the Apostles tells that people touched their handkerchiefs and aprons to St. Paul’s body, and then took those items to lay upon the sick and those with unclean spirits. All who were sick and possessed were instantly cured when touched by these holy relics (Acts 19:11-12). We even hear that the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits were cured when the shadow of St. Peter fell upon them (Acts 5:14-16). The Lord chose to reveal His glory, and work miracles and healings through His garment and relics of the apostles.  

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