Summary: Running away from the cross gets us nowhere -- literally!
Third Sunday of Lent (B)
March 19, 2006
1 Cor.1:18, 22-25
Escaping The Cross
In Paul’s letter today he tells us that he is preaching a crucified Christ. The pagans consider such preaching nothing but madness. At times we are like the pagans. When the cross intrudes itself into our lives, and all we can see in that cross is the suffering it will cost us, we turn from it and run away like people who have gone mad.
We run from the cross as if it were going to destroy us. We run straight into the arms of comfort and consolation. It’s hard to find real wisdom in a society where we actually put to death persons who are not yet born, and then we call it respecting the rights of women. This is an abuse of women in the highest degree. We make women into nothing more than selfish, pampered, self-centered children when we describe them as having the right to destroy the child which God has created within them. This is a great disservice to all women.
We run from loneliness as if it were going to destroy us. We let ourselves be pampered in so many ways physically that we can’t stand any emotional unrest within ourselves. We see it as bad, something to be fought against, destroyed, conquered. But loneliness and emotional unrest can lead to great discoveries.
We can come to the love of God and true love of neighbour when we come to the deep realization that we are all part of God’s creation. Our loneliness can lead us to greater love of others or it can lead us to a selfish pampering of our own needs for sexual gratification and filling our bellies so that we never feel any real emptiness inside.
Comfort can be a very underhanded and deceitful enemy as we try to follow the crucified Christ. In our opening prayer we said that God has taught us to overcome our sins by prayer, fasting and works of mercy. Lent is a reminder that the only way to deal with some things in life is through fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At times, we need to fast from food and from too much comfort.
When we always have what we want, then when something comes along that we shouldn’t have, we will still want that thing or that person. We won’t know how to put off satisfaction because we don’t make putting off a part of our lives. We need to fast from anything which is blocking our pathway to God and to our neighbour.
And we need to pray. We need to pray especially for a deeper knowledge of love. We don’t always know how to truly love God and others. We may be putting too much emphasis on the externals and have lost a real internal sense of what authentic love really is. Like the moneychangers in the temple, it is easy to think that we are doing God’s will because we keep all of the laws and regulations of the Church. Within organized religion, that has always been a temptation, and I don’t think that it is going to go away any time soon.
We measure our love by how well we keep the rules, but forget that rules are only there to help us love. Spirituality is found on the inside. The outside should be a reflection of what the inside looks like. When the two don’t match, we have a serious spiritual problem.
Works of Mercy (Almsgiving)
We also need to open our wallets and purses to those who are in desperate situations of poverty and neglect. We may find it hard to give if we are always in a shopping mood, or always looking to get that next thing that we just can’t live without. But let’s face it. We so easily fool ourselves about what we really need, and we so easily let ourselves be fooled by those people who want to sell us those goods. It requires a lot of vigilance to control our useless spending.
In the Gospel, we hear that Jesus did not trust himself to those who believed in him because of the great signs he performed. He knew better than to put his trust in men and women who wanted nothing but the externals. So much of our lives can be consumed as we seek to impress others with what we have, or with who we are. It’s all just dust in the wind. What matters is how we love. And sometimes that love requires that we suffer as Jesus suffered for us.
I pray that we do not find ourselves running from the cross of Christ. Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. May we find that same power and wisdom hidden in the crosses we carry in our own lives.