Taste and see: Paradox and newness

Hanwell

The ‘default’ second reading provided for last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent – except when the First Scrutiny was celebrated – came from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Perhaps we are so familiar with ‘THE crucifixion’, with seeing it in light of the resurrection, the triumph of love and life, that we may miss the enormity of the scandal of the death of Jesus overturning earthly power and authority.

But, consider, in the brutality of that site of execution of three criminals the meaning and direction of human history is changed, or at least radically clarified. In the knowledge of what brought Jesus to the cross, what he endure, and what happens in consequence, nothing in our lives should be untouched.

  • What is different for you and how?

 Photograph of crucifix in church of Our Lady and St Joseph, Hanwell. (C) 2010, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Of Christ’s costly love

Mosaic over main entrance, Jesuit Church, Cracow

Again, there are two texts that we may hear at Mass as the Second reading, this Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Lent. The one the ‘regular’ reading, the other always available as an option (as Year A’s readings may always be used on the 3rd Sunday), though they are required when The First Scrutiny is celebrated.

While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

The reading opposes weakness and strength, wisdom and foolishness. Both are evidenced in Christ. Weakness and foolishness is what appears to be true, strength and wisdom is what is in fact true. The reason Christ goes to the Cross is not irrelevant – it reveals both the love of God for us which leads God in flesh to endure such suffering, and the vileness of humankind which imposes such pain and humiliation on others.

The alternative Reading focuses most on the love of God and the righteousness imputed us because of his love. Grace is freely given, at great cost, for our thriving.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace in which we can boast about looking forward to God’s glory. And this hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us. We were still helpless when at his appointed moment Christ died for sinful men. It is not easy to die even for a good man – though of course for someone really worthy, a man might be prepared to die – but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:1-2,5-8

 Photograph of Mosaic over entrance to Jesuit church, Cracow, Poland. (C) 2013, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: of resurrection and the new creation

Holy Sepulchre4

The second reading at Mass tomorrow, the feast of Christ the King, comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. One of the most wide-ranging and interesting of the letters of the New Testament, that first letter to the Corinthians contains this following extraordinarily confident statement of the meaning and implication of Christ’s resurrection.

This is no one ‘thing’, a one-off event, happening to one man. This is life changing for all, the dawn of a new creation, in which the old creation finds the most extraordinary renewal.

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.

After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet. And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subject in his turn to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

And we are part of this event. First by the offer of this newness to all creation. Second by the decision to respond to the offer which is sealed in Baptism, and deepened in Confirmation, and constantly nourished in Eucharist. Third, by God’s grace and our striving, to do what we can to live this new life even in this old world: waiting, working – even in fits and starts – for its completion and fulfilment when the kingdom is achieved on earth as in heaven, and all is one and all is God’s.

  • What step to newness could you take today?
  • What step are you tempted you say is too far, too hard, too much?

Photograph of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.  Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the Westminster pilgrims presently on pilgrimage there.