Third Sunday of LentThis Sunday, the second reading will be from 1 Cor 1:22-25. As usual, I’m going to encourage you to read back a little to get some context. I’d start at verse 18, and continue on through the end of the chapter.
The epistle this week forms a bridge between the first reading and the gospel, so I strongly recommend reading them. It’s Lectionary # 29, if you’re reading from a hard copy source.
Paul laments that Jews look for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but both fail to see the very thing that they seek in Jesus Christ.
The truly hilarious part (or perhaps it’s tragicomic) is that the Jews who were in the temple when Jesus drove everybody out with a whip, the same ones who were always looking for signs, didn’t recognize one when it flipped over their money tables, scattered their animals, and drove them out of the temple! To those who had been given the Eyes of Faith (the disciples) it was right in front of them.
To one whose behavior has never been constrained by the tenets of a religion, the idea that we should voluntarily submit ourselves to a set of rules that have no exterior benefit for ourselves sounds pretty dumb.
I have a friend who refers to herself as “a devout agnostic”, and when she started contemplating the idea of attending a church, one of the criteria that she looked for was that the church couldn’t be telling her how she should or shouldn’t act. What use is such a church? She never did find one, as far as I know.
Moreover, the idea that because I fought with my sister when I was a kid, and I sometimes drive faster than the sign says, and because I committed enumerable other sins (that most people would think of as minor, or maybe not even wrong), somebody entirely different had to pay for it with his life… Yeah, that sounds dumb, too.
The ability to see and accept the truth of the Gospel is a gift. It’s not something that will be intuitive if you’re coming at it from scratch. There will be a learning curve - probably a good long learning curve. And, in places, people have to shake themselves of their long-held convictions and habits from their former way of life - for example, early Jewish Christians had a hard time fully recognizing that the circumcision and the law - with which they’d all grown up - was henceforth entirely unnecessary.
The Gospel is a hard thing to accept, but needing to explain it in a way that will be palatable to the fallen away (who think they’ve heard it all, but somehow missed the whole point) and intelligible to those who have never heard the word at all is not a reason to be afraid.
Those are the very people that we need to go after, but we cannot go to them alone. We must trust our words to God’s wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.”
Lord, help us to always look to you when we are called upon to give a defense for the hope that is inside of us. Help us to recognize these situations as they are happening and give us the presence of mind to reach out for your guidance right then. We ask that you give us the words to speak your truth.
Come, Holy Ghost,
Fill the hearts of thy faithful,
and kindle in us the fire of thy divine love.
Send forth thy spirit
that we may be recreated
and renew the face of the earth.