The Journey of Lent takes us to the reality of Sign and Wisdom

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Readings:  Ex. 20:1-17/1Cor. 1:22-25

Psalm:  19:8-11

Gospel:  John 2:13-25

            Today, I have to admit something.  I am sad.  I am sad for our nation.  I am sad for our State (Illinois).  I am sad for our Church. We seem to be in some state of flux; unsure of where we are going and unsure of what will happen when we arrive.  Each day, the innocence I had as a child is taken from me and the fears and concerns of my parents and their generation are placed on my shoulders.  I know that I am not the only one who feels this way, but the burdens that were given to my generation have been compounded by events that no one had expected to be in their lifetimes.  It is as if I had eaten the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, my eyes were slowly opened, and wish I’d stay blind.

            Over the past few weeks we have seen children who are killed, deciders who have deceived and the rest of the world get herded into divided pastures by the sound of a voice singing a familiar tune that was eerily similar, but not quite exactly as they remember.  What we know to be true has been replaced with a false reality.  That is the main point I want to talk about:  reality.  When we were not looking, our realities had been taken away. They were then given to others who replaced them with their own versions of reality and telling us “this is reality” rather than finding it out for ourselves.  Rather than seeing only one reality, we are given several different ones, claiming to be the only one.  These realities, while numerous, are generally shown only two ways:  signs and wisdom.  We all want proof that the direction we are going is the right one.  So, those who hold this new reality will give it out in one form or another, but they all boil down to signs and wisdom.

            This problem is not just our problem. They are also displayed in the Scriptures, as well.  Last week, we saw the Signs from God in the saving of Isaac.  We heard Jesus being transfigured in front of Peter, James and John.  In the search for wisdom, we hear today from the Book of Exodus the first time God’s Commandments were proclaimed.  And when we read from the Gospel of Matthew, there is one phrase that is interspersed throughout:  “This happened to fulfill what was spoken through the Prophet.” 

            Paul recognized this conflict when he wrote to the Church in Corinth:  “(The) Jews demand signs and the Greeks look for wisdom.”  We look for God in our own way, kind of like us doing something with our right hand or left hand.  But when we only search for God in only one way, our discovery is well short of the true reality.  So, after Jesus tossed the money changers and animal sellers out of the Temple, the Jews demanded a sign.  Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  Now, do you think what Jesus said was sign or was it wisdom?  To the Jews in the Temple, it was sign.  To those who read the story later, it was wisdom.  When John proclaimed this story in his Gospel, he revealed the meaning of Christ’s words:  “When he was raised from the dead, (Jesus’) disciples remembered that he said this, and they came to believe the Scriptures and the word Jesus had spoken.”

            So, did Jesus give a sign, or did he proclaim wisdom?  I hope you think by now that what Jesus gave was both.  Paul says so in today’s reading.  Prior to this section that we heard, Paul concerned himself with those other prophets who were confusing the Church in Corinth.  Paul reminds them of his mission.  A mission that comes from the one thing that confounds us all:  The Crucifixion.  Paul says “We proclaim Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  It is from this form of execution, this act of humiliation that would be the focus of our salvation.

            It is a question we ask of us today?  Why do we display the crucifix instead of just a cross?  The cross is only a sign of the resurrection.  The corpus (the body on the cross) is the wisdom of his sacrifice.  By having both together, sign and wisdom are now one.  It is no longer a symbol or an image.  It is the Paschal Mystery:  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus which is present in the Eucharist.  Each time we present ourselves for communion, or sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, we move beyond the signs, the wisdom, and the factions; in fact, we move beyond everything that is on earth that keeps us from the reality which is God’s love for us.

            God’s reality is not humanity’s.  As Paul reminds us “… (T)he foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  When we forgo human associations and instead stay focused on God, all divisions will cease.  During this Lenten Season, now is the time for us to focus on moving beyond our divisions and embrace our connection to God and his Church.  It can be especially hard to do that, considering we are heading towards the upcoming Primaries, but this is the best time for us to set this example to our families, our friends and even ourselves.  Let today be the start of our moving forward toward the true reality that is God’s love and mercy toward us and his creation.



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