July 8, 2007 Year C
14th Sunday In Ordinary Time/6th Sunday After Pentecost
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Theme: Except in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The universal sign of love, redemption and reconciliation is the crucifix.
In St. Paul's epistles the word crucified appears at least 10 times. In each case, St. Paul is either emphasizing the uniqueness of Christ's propitiatory death or our own appropriation by faith of Christ's sacrifice of himself for us. The climatic conclusion of Paul's preaching are his words, …But we preach Christ crucified…" (see here)
Another 11 times St. Paul uses the word cross explaining it is the power of God unto our salvation, that which Christ endured for our salvation, and that without which no one can be saved. (see here) It, the cross, is for Paul that which distinguishes us from the world and the world from us. In it, the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, do we glory as St. Paul.
The crucifix is therefore, not the emblem of unbelief or the denial of the Resurrection. Rather it is the sign by which we are reminded that only divine love, reviled and rejected by men, could embrace such contradiction. It is such love we have received and which the world seeks for in all the wrong ways and places.
In Paul's day it was necessary to establish that salvation results from the preaching of the cross. Some trusted in their circumcision while others were condemned for remaining uncircumcised. This came to a head at the First Council of the Church at Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. Some were teaching the brethren "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." No small debate and dissension arose. Those believers of the party of the Pharisees speaking of the conversion of the Gentiles rose and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the Law of Moses." But it was Peter, Paul and Barnabas who testified that both Jews and Gentiles are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus. Thus was the primacy of the cross established and is why Paul in today's reading begs that no one make any more trouble for him. The issue of how one is a child of God was settled at Jerusalem and is why Paul stated that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision meant anything anymore. That which mattered then, now and always is a new creation made possible by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. Paul's credentials were that he bore in his body the marks of Jesus. Some have concluded that Paul bore the stigmata. That may be, but we have another insight to what Paul may have meant. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul shares he had received countless beatings and was often near death. In Paul's own words we hear him say, "Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one, three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned."
The riches of Jerusalem foreseen by the Prophet Isaiah are those procured by the Cross of Christ. In it Isaiah gloried describing the overflowing delight and prosperity for all who will pay homage to that hill in the form of a skull just outside her gates. It is there where was demonstrated a love without equal poured out as milk for our comfort. It is this to which we invite the gaze of the world when we say behold the Kingdom of God.
In the sending of the 70 (as say ancient texts) we may reminisce about Israel's resting at Elim on their way to the Promised Land. In Genesis 10 we have the original listing of the nations numbering 70. At Elim there are 70 palm trees (representing the nations) and 12 springs of water (representing the 12 tribes of Israel). In Exodus 24 , 70 of the elders of Israel joined Moses, Aaron and Nadab and Abihu on the trek to Mt. Sinai. So this imagery would not have been lost on the 70 being commissioned to go into every town and place the King intended to visit to announce the blessings of the Kingdom of God.
The 70 indeed exclaimed the sick were healed and demons withered away at their command, and Jesus confirmed he had given them such power to tread upon the full power of the Enemy. But Jesus says, "nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Let us never glory or boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, it is true that beaten and nailed to a cross, there is no beauty in your humiliation that I should desire you. It is true that I may wish salvation had been won by more tasteful means. It is true that I with all others would have forsaken you in the hour of your wounds. But I long to be like John and Mary your mother, and stay near your cross, near your wounded side, near your sacred heart and there glory in your sacrifice. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray to this end for us. Amen.