THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT, YR B
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
By Fr. Euly Belizar, Jr.
WHENEVER someone asks me these days, “Are you for or against Cha-Cha?” I’m tempted to say, “I like Tango better.” Then I turn serious and continue: “I am only for what is right and just in the country. Whatever serves that also dictates my choices.” Safe answer, one would think.
There are very strong efforts now on-going to change the fundamental law of the land or the constitution of RP. CHA-CHA (short for ‘Charter Change’) is how it is called. There are people now who would swear a willingness to offer their lives to either protect or revise this law. But they would care very little if they bring down or even kill a perceived enemy, and therefore commit a clear violation of a more fundamental law, God’s commandments. A friend told me that many politicos know the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue by heart. But they prefer to follow the eleventh, which is: “Thou shalt not be caught”; or the twelfth, which is: “If caught, thou shalt not admit”.
A constitutional expert from UP once said in an interview: “Our fundamental law or constitution reflects the kind of people that we are”. So if it is revised such that it goes from being pro-God, pro-life, pro-sanctity-of-marriage-and-the-family, pro-poor and pro-social justice to being pro-world, pro-death, pro-dissolution of marriage-and-family and pro-rich/elite/political dynasty, then it reflects badly on us.
The Ten Commandments reflect the kind of people God wants us to become. That is, he wants us to be a people living by the right order of things: cultivating our relationship with Him first (that is why we have the first to the fourth commandments); and, secondly, cultivating our relationship with our neighbor (hence, the fifth to the tenth commandments). These commandments embody, in other words, the love of God and neighbor.
Moses received, transmitted and defended the Decalogue with all his might. But it is Jesus who fulfills and unifies these two loves on the Cross. On it he suffers and dies out of love for the Father and for us in view of our salvation. This is why Paul the Apostle in the second reading speaks of “Christ Crucified” as “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. He contrasts Christian disciples with Jews who look for ‘signs’, i.e., miracles that give credibility to religious claims. They are not also like the Greeks who seek wisdom, i.e., a set of teachings that give meaning to life, the universe and man’s significance in it. For Christians, Paul insists, Christ on the Cross, is enough; He is everything for us and for our salvation.
Small wonder then that after Jesus cleanses the temple in the Gospel account, the Jews demand of him a ‘sign’. Greeks would have sought him to astound them with systematic teaching. Jesus speaks instead of the destruction of the temple. This for John the evangelist points to the “temple of his body” which he would submit to suffering and death at his crucifixion. That crucifixion would lead to the triumph of his resurrection. Jesus Crucified, therefore, for Paul and for Christians, tells of a new way of worshipping God and a new way of living life. Loving God and neighbor are one love, not two and divided loves, in Jesus and in his followers.
If a hero does an act of virtue or sacrifice, we would be impressed. But if a heinous criminal becomes a model of righteousness, we would be awed. Jesus on the Cross surpasses both these examples above because he, the Just One, uses a symbol of crime, death and humiliation and transforms it into an instrument of our redemption. By his death he has made us share God’s everlasting life. Indeed the Crucified Christ performs and is the greatest sign and miracle. As our liturgy exclaims: “Dying, you destroyed our death; rising, you restored our life.” He also reveals to us God’s wisdom in that, using his standards and not ours, he transforms weakness into strength, an instrument of torture into a means of our liberation, utter humiliation into a revelation that it is humility that conquers the devil.
St Padre Pio once said: “The Cross does not overwhelm; if its weight makes one stagger, its power gives relief.”