The Cross of Christ
Third Sunday of Lent B

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

We heard, in the Second Reading, that Saint Paul tells the Christians of Corinth that they should not demand signs from God. And he emphasizes that the only sign that they need to have is the sign of the Cross of Christ, which, as he says, is a scandal for the Jews and foolishness for the gentiles. He reminds them that, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Saint Paul was someone who understood very well the significance of the Cross. Remember what he said in his Letter to the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the Cross of the Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)

The First Reading today is from the Book of Exodus. Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying the tablets that God had given him with the Ten Commandments. God gave those commandments to the Hebrew people so that they could be transformed and converted into His faithful followers. But they are also meant for us. When we obey them, we show God our obedience, faithfulness, and love. During the centuries after the Exodus, the Jewish religious authorities added to the Ten Commandments more than 600 laws that the Jews had to obey. In Jesus times, the scribes and the Pharisees, two powerful groups in the Jewish religion, were almost the only ones who understood these laws. They boasted of being the only ones who faithfully carried them out. But this was not true. Many of them did not follow them because of obedience or love of God. They pretended, before the people, to follow them. They tried to show that they were more responsible and better persons while ignoring the very laws they wanted others to obey.

Those responsible for the Temple of Jerusalem were the Jewish religious authorities. Many Jews came from the surrounding areas, and even from countries far away, to sacrifice animals in the temple. The authorities had authorized the rental of booths and tables inside of the temple to those who sold animals and changed money. The entryway into the temple began to look and feel like a small town marketplace. We can understand the terrible impact this had on Jesus when He entered the temple and saw that the house of His beloved Father had been turned into a corral for keeping animals. We can also understand very well the righteous anger that He felt when He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and threw out the sellers of animals. The Jewish authorities could not believe what they were seeing. In their way of thinking, the temple belonged to them. And they were the ones who should be giving the orders. So they could not stand for someone to question their authority. They decided to intervene and confront Jesus, asking Him, “What signs can you show us for doing this?” The Lord, as usual, did not answer the question directly. Instead He said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up again.” Neither the Jewish authorities nor the disciples themselves comprehended what the Lord meant by this. It was only after His death and resurrection that the apostles understood, with clarity, those words of the Master and what He wanted to say by them.

The death of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, on the Cross shows us clearly the great love that He has for each one of us. The Cross, for Greeks and Romans, was a most horrible means of torture. And the Jews considered it an instrument of divine damnation. Even today, for many, the Cross can seem to be absurd and incomprehensible. That could be the reason that it is hard for many to appreciate why God would send His only Son to suffer a horrible death. Yet for more than twenty centuries, we Christians have proclaimed, and we continue to proclaim openly and with joy, that by the Cross we are redeemed and saved.