Third Sunday of Lent


Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 
but 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.


The Jews have a particular devotion to the "Shema," the passage in Deuteronomy which begins with "Hear, O Israel." It is followed by that familiar command that Jesus cited, "You shall love the Lord your God...."
We should notice that first word, Shema." It means Listen! Pay attention! Hear! Stop talking for a moment. Stop thinking about how you will reply. Stop arguing. Stop expecting to you hear what you want to hear and fearing what you don't want to hear.
Saint Paul met continual chatter as he announced the gospel. Jewish chatter demanded signs, and Greek chatter looked for wisdom, but he could only preach Christ crucified.
If anything got through the noise his Jewish contemporaries were scandalized. They were not simply disappointed by his proclamation of a crucified Messiah; they were enraged. 
In our context twenty centuries later, the "Jews" are the pious who determine what their "Church" -- the pope, cardinal, bishop, priest, deacon or catechist -- should say. They will not hear anything as rude as the unexpected, unusual or unflattering to themselves. They cling to their human traditions because they don't know the traditions of our faith. They are quite sure they know what God knows and say what God says. When a representative of the Church speaks of welcoming the alien, recognizing homosexuality or challenging militaristic policies of the federal government, they are enraged, scandalized that their church should utter such a thought!
Today's  "Greeks" are those philosophes who apply "rational" principles to religious teaching. They believe the human being is a marvelous machine, governed by principles of mathematics, efficiency and expedience. They ask, "Why shouldn't we use birth control, artificial insemination and abortion if we get the results we want? Why shouldn't we make money at the expense of minorities who will not survive anyway? No one should have to make sacrifice. Why would a man be crucified?" When offered an explanation they're response is, "But..., but..., but...." They can't hear because their philosophy doesn't include listening.
Neither the pious nor the irreligious will hear the gospel of Christ crucified.
Today we read Saint John's account of Jesus' prophetic "cleansing of the temple." Saint Luke's anticipates the same story with a severe warning,
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.
He added to that the story of Jesus' encounter with women on the Via Dolorosa,
Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?
In 30 a.d, as Jesus was being crucified, no one could imagine the Romans might come and destroy Jerusalem. There were troubles but they didn't seem that bad. Why would God punish us?' they wondered. The wrath fell upon them in 70 a.d. and Saint Luke recalled Jesus' words.
Does the United States face a similar collapse today, with the scourges of abortion, suicide, drug abuse, school shootings, and corruption in the White House?
Lent is a visitation, an opportunity to examine our thinking and our daily routines. Am I living a religious life? If the police round up practicing Catholics this evening will they arrest me?
...to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
There may not be a future, but there is the present moment.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.