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.
I came across a book promoting the Catholic Church, published at the end of the Obama era. The blurb promises readers that this book will open a way to become "the best version of yourself" and "all that you can be."
I haven't put it down yet, neither have I opened it up. But I don't like that kind of promise. It reminded me of a sexually suggestive poster that wants to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. The strategy is first to appeal to the consumer's lower nature and then address something serious.
Saint Paul tried that strategy in Athens when he gathered an audience with his speculations about "the unknown god." Saint Luke says the Athenians were always curious for some new nonsense:
Now all the Athenians as well as the foreigners residing there used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new.
As soon as they heard the Good News that an executed criminal had been raised from the dead, they laughed and walked away. The apostle took the experience to heart and, arriving in Corinth, spoke more simply and from the heart:
When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
The book blurb appeals to the narcissism of the American consumer who believes that he can be saved, satisfied or made happy by buying the right product; in this case, the Catholic Church.
In fairness, the blurb also speaks of holiness and appeals to the traditional belief that Christians should strive for holiness. If they have got past the title, "Rediscovering Catholicism" and as far as the blurb, they might be interested in holiness. And I might yet read the introduction.
But I think we should practice honesty in advertising. The Lord will not promise anyone an easy way of life, though it is easier than our own foolish ways; nor any satisfaction except that of finding hope in the face of catastrophe.
The way of the cross is the way of failure by most standards. It is not domineering, commanding or overwhelming. If it persuades it does so by reason rather than coercion. Even its threats are reasonable; they point to the consequences of one's free choices. It allows the enemy to mock, scorn and deride; even to assault and destroy.
The way of the cross grieves with victims, even those who invited what they now regret. The message of the cross will not say, "I warned you about this!"
In pursuit of the right thing we often run into conflict; and when the dust has settled we discover nothing has changed. The Civil War did not end slavery or racism; the World Wars did not make the world safe for democracy; abortion has not ended child abuse; nor divorce, spousal abuse.
The cross waits upon the Holy Spirit to open ears, eyes and hearts to the message of the truth. Everything must happen in its own time.
George Herbert has a wonderful poem to that effect, called The Pulley:
When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by,
“Let us,” said he, “pour on him all we can.
Let the world’s riches, which dispersèd lie,
Contract into a span.”
So strength first made a way;
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honour, pleasure.
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.
“For if I should,” said he,
“Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in Nature, not the God of Nature;
So both should losers be.
“Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May toss him to my breast.”