Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Wisdom, strength of Christ’s cross reveals worldly folly, weakness

Published: March 2, 2002

By Father Andrew Smith

Jesus knew that people would see the signs that he worked, the miracles he performed, but would refuse to see the messages behind the signs and the miracles. Instead they would see him as a wonder worker, a super man, a good show. He knew that they would not recognize who he really was. Nor were they ready to listen to his message. Those who followed the way of the world could never accept sacrificial love, a death on a cross, as the way to salvation.

He would show us what real love was. He would die on a cross for us.

The cross did not make sense to the Jews who wanted signs, wonders, a superman, a triumphant messiah. The cross didn’t make sense to the Gentiles whose philosophers and sophists could not understand the wisdom of Christ’s sacrifice.

But as St. Paul writes, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews, an absurdity to the Gentiles, but to all those who are called, Jews and Gentiles alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s folly is wiser than men, and his weakness more powerful than men.”

The temple that was in existence during the time of Jesus was the third temple. The Temple of Solomon had been destroyed during the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth century B.C. The Temple that replaced it after the captivity was nowhere near as glorious as Solomon’s.

When the Temple of Herod was constructed at the beginning of Jesus’ life it was a wonder of the world. Remember Jesus gazing on the Temple as the disciples looked at it with their mouths open.

But no matter how powerful, how strong the new temple looked, it was insignificant. It could be and it would be destroyed. The Romans would tear it apart in the year 70 A.D. to such an extent that the only portion left then, and still existing now, is what is referred to by Jews as the “Wailing Wall,” the actual western wall of Herod’s Temple. But Christ’s presence would never be removed from the world. His love is eternal. He is always here with us.

During Lent we celebrate our ability to live Christ’s life. We are called upon to consider how well we are following Christ’s way, the way of sacrificial love. Our houses may be destroyed in a natural disaster, but nothing can remove the love of Christ from our homes, wherever we may be. The one thing that will last forever is the sacrificial love of the Lord we have been enjoined to perpetuate in the world.

We must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, our families and our friends.

We must be willing to demonstrate with our own lives that Jesus’ wisdom and strength, the wisdom and strength of the cross proves the lie of the materialistic mind set of the world. The wisdom of the cross reveals all else to be folly and weakness.

Father Andrew Smith is pastor of St. Joseph Church in Pine Bluff.