Removing The Scandal of the Cross
There is a striking verse in the New Testament, in which St Paul refers to the Cross of Jesus Christ as foolishness to the Greek, and a stumbling block to the Jews. The Cross was utter folly and scandalous to those guys. Yet St Paul preached Christ crucified to impart wisdom. So, how is this punishment not scandalous, and how could being crucified lead us to wisdom?
Addressing the 1st question, we will hear in the preface of the Mass that Jesus revealed his divinity to remove the scandal of the Cross from our hearts. The Cross is not scandalous, it was not a punishment from God, but part of Jesus’ mission. As the Messiah, God entrusted Jesus a mission to reveal God’s Love which would involve his own death. And God vindicated his Son by raising him from the dead. In the meantime, Jesus tells Peter, James and John that he will rise from the dead, letting them in on God's wise plan, because he wanted to remove from their hearts the coming scandal of the Cross.
The Cross is not scandalous, it is to be embraced. It is not punishment, but a sign of God’s Love and the victory of God’s life over death.
The Cross Reveals God’s Wisdom
Thinking about it, Christians are called to rise after death and share in the ecstatic life of God. This mode of being that we describe as ‘ecstatic’ just means being radically open to God’s life (that transcends our life). Being sharers in a life that is bigger than ours means a radical openness of mind and heart. However, in this life good and bad come to us. Removing the scandal of the Cross comes through the recognition that, keeping our heart open to good and bad alike, we keep our heart open to the life of God.
Just as God’s life transfigured the humanity of Jesus leading not only to death, but his resurrection, so too will God’s life transfigure our humanity. That is, if we keep our heart and mind open to God, the Spirit of God will transfigure our life, bringing us individually to perfection through our own individual death and resurrection.
That Cross, that death we refer to as 'crucifixion' in the spiritual sense – comes little by little until we are fully prepared to enter the ecstasy that is God’s life in heaven. Here and now, embracing our ‘Crosses’ means revealing God’s love 😊
Finally, we can answer the 2nd question: How could being crucified lead us to wisdom? Being crucified happens gradually. Slowly, little renunciations of our selfish tendencies mean we are growing in our capacity for God, whose Spirit and whose life, utterly transcends ours. And having this capacity for God equates to knowledge of God, through our knowledge of Jesus mystically present in our heart and in our life. Knowing Jesus who was crucified is wisdom – the wonderful wisdom of God that allows us to embrace God’s plan born alone of love.
Photo from: The Church of Transfiguration, Mount Tabor