In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” In his time, St. Paul encountered those who demanded extraordinary signs and convincing philosophical arguments before they would believe the message that he was preaching with such fervor. His response: “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 123-26)
In her book Days of Dust and Ashes, Pamela Smith writes: “The Christ was crucified because of duplicity, complacency, resistance to change, refusal to see and hear, fear, unwillingness to endure threats to security and comfort.” In the scriptures we have just heard proclaimed, we see that these attitudes, motivations and patterns of thought were exhibited by in almost all those involved: in the religious leaders who sought security, in the governing authorities who sought political stability, in the Temple guards and Roman soldiers who were carrying out orders, in the friends who distanced themselves, in the disciples who denied having listened to the teaching of Jesus, and in the crowds who were so quick to join in the humiliation of the condemned, who were so quick to shout out “crucify him!”
And yet through it all, the beloved Son of God stood strong in the folly of his world to reveal the bear witness to the Truth. Through it all, the Servant of God embraced and offered the weakness of humanity as a humble prayer of supplication. Through it all, the Son of Man was bringing forth Salvation.
In an age of economic insecurity, global terrorism, home-grown militias, religious fundamentalism and environmental change, our culture is easily influenced by the attitudes and motivations of “duplicity, complacency, resistance to change, refusal to see and hear, fear, [and] unwillingness to endure threats to security and comfort.” Each day we can see the effects of “the wisdom of this age” in the strident and mocking rhetoric of politicians and pundits, in desperate attempts to maintain an unjust distribution of the wealth of the world and a standard of living that few can afford, in the dehumanization of immigrants and refugee who are different from ourselves, in disregard for the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless, the hungry, in the “scape-goating” of religious leaders for the ills of humanity, and in our own fickleness of heart as we too quickly deny the teachings of our Lord and as we too-quickly humiliate or condemn others.
The forces that led to the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary continue to do their best to crucify him anew in the least of his brothers and sisters. And yet: the Lord of Life still stands before us, testifying to the Truth, and interceding not only for the least of his brothers and sisters, but also for all who would condemn him again.
My brothers and sisters, through the gift of faith we have come to recognize the wisdom of God that is made manifest in the folly of the Cross. And so, on this solemn day we preach Christ crucified who still stands as a “stumbling block and foolishness” for many. Today, even in our own weakness and sinfulness, we gather to stand in witness of the sign of God’s love made manifest in the passion of Jesus Christ. Today, we once again affirm before a skeptical and disillusioned world the true wisdom and power of this ultimate sign of God’s love. Today, we unite ourselves to Christ in a great prayer of supplication for all peoples. Today, we are renewed in hope as we recognize in the Crucified One the very power and wisdom of God.
Like St. Paul, may we glory only in the cross of Christ, so that we might be effective witnesses of his Way, of his Truth, and of his Life to the world who needs the saving wisdom and strength of God.