Year B: Third Sunday of Lent
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
From the very beginning, Christianity had a P.R. problem. How do you “sell” a religion based on an event like the death of its leader? Yes, you can preach that Jesus was also raised from the dead - but it is a tough truth to encounter at the beginning of belief.
For the Jews, crucifixion was the ultimate in shame. Not only was it a horrific death, but their Law also said that anyone who died on a tree was cursed by God and was damned for ever. How could early Christians convince them that Jesus had died “on a tree” but had remain beloved of God and so had been raised from the dead. For the Jews, the very fact of Jesus’ being crucified was an obstacle to receiving the truth of the resurrection.
The other group predominant in Corinth was the Greek community. They had been brought up in a world which valued reason and philosophy. Their culture had grown strong in mathematics and medicine and some of their discoveries remain as valid now as they did thousands of years ago. However, when they encountered the story of Jesus, they could see no wisdom in it. Why did Jesus die? What was the purpose? What was the effect? How could someone who it was claimed was divine die?
So, these two groups of people were unable to enter into the mystery -and this must have caused those who did to ask questions. Today’s reading is St Paul’s attempt to address that question - what gets in the way of some people believing in Jesus as the Christ.
It is a fact that to some people, elements of faith get in the way of belief - others see it as completely mad - but those who do believe sense that they are encountering something much greater than any human can understand. God is so great that, in comparison, the greatest human wisdom seems like foolishness.
This problem has not gone away. When we speak of our faith, we will encounter people who will challenge and reject our beliefs. At such times, the phrase “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom” can prove a very powerful belief to trust.
What does it mean for me?