GAL 3:1-2; 6:14-15; 1 COR 2:2-4; ROM 1:16
GAL 3:1-2 – O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard?
GAL 6:14-15 – But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision, but only a new creation.
1 COR 2:2-4 – For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power…
ROM 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes…
“But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Jesus Christ and him crucified is one of the primary themes that recurs in many of the letters of St. Paul. In fact, I would choose to be so bold as to say this is his primary, not just one of, but the primary theme for St. Paul.
We hear why this happened in some of the other writings about Paul’s travels. Paul writes about his experience in Athens at a place that was filled with altars to almost every God in the Greek mythology. But this place he visited also had in altar to “an unknown God”.
Paul used this to try to describe the Revelation of God through the Jewish people, that ended with Jesus, who died and rose. However, as soon as the Athenians heard about someone rising from the dead, they dismissed Paul; some actually laughed at him. He made very few converts in Athens, and he walked away very disgusted.
But from then on, he made it a point to talk about Jesus and him crucified. He saw in this message the truth that we have our salvation because of the crucifixion of Jesus. – He did not ignore the resurrection, but his main focus was on the new creation that we have become because of what Jesus did on the cross.
I mentioned a few weeks ago: we are now, after baptism, no longer just human beings; we are sacred beings because of what Jesus did by his death on the cross. The church teaches that the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus was a sign of the Eucharist and Baptism. I believe this is also at the core of Paul’s approach to preaching Christ crucified.
But this is not the only point. Our reading today was from the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. But, in the third chapter of this letter, we hear a very stern rebuke from Paul of the Galatians: “O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” Yes, he was that strong: calling them stupid!
Now, the Galatians were not in Jerusalem on the day of Jesus death. But Paul says Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified, which must mean that even in this earliest time of Christianity, at most twenty years after Jesus’ death, they had crucifixes. They portrayed Jesus on the cross.
This obviously had a huge impact on the early church. It certainly had an impact on how Paul preached.
We need to take our understanding of this seriously. Our Protestant brothers and sisters criticize us for having the body of Jesus on the cross. They seem to think that our focus is only on the death of Jesus. But that is clearly not the case. Our focus needs to remain on Christ crucified, because it is by this that God has chosen to make us a new creation, which is what Paul said in our reading today.
The church was born from the side of Christ. That was the meaning that God had given to having Eve be born from the side of Adam.
We need to declare, without embarrassment, Christ crucified. We do that through the crucifixes we have in our homes, or that we wear around our necks. (If you do not have a crucifix in your home, now is the time to get one!) Some people do this by wearing the rosary around their necks. If it is not done just as a piece of jewelry, but as a devotion not just to our Lady but to the crucifix that hangs on the end of the rosary, it is a wondrous thing.
When someone asks what the rosary is all about, our explanation needs to be that it is a focus on the incarnation of Jesus, all the way from his birth through to his resurrection and glory in heaven. And that is why we focus on the importance of the rosary, and the importance of a crucifix.
St. Dominic used the rosary as a way to combat a major heresy in his day. Maybe, just maybe, the rosary and meditating on the mysteries of the rosary is what is needed today to draw people back to the church. Dominic used the rosary to show the importance of Jesus coming in the flesh. He came in the flesh so that he could die – in the flesh – and then rise in glory – in the flesh.
Paul preached this to great effect throughout the Mediterranean. He was not ashamed of the cross of Christ. He understood it is the way in which we receive this transformation to being a new creation that makes us sacred beings in the eyes of God.
We dare not be ashamed of the cross of Christ. We dare not be ashamed to show a crucifix. We dare not be ashamed of proclaiming before the world the mysteries of the rosary, where Jesus is revealed as the Son of Man, and the Son of God.
Paul says in Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes…” His gospel, and ours was, is, and always will be Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Heavenly Father, give us the courage we need in our day, in every situation of our life to proclaim Christ crucified, the source of our salvation. Make us bold like St. Paul, and St. Dominic, and all of those who willingly proclaimed the power of your love revealed through the cross. Among Jesus’s last words from the cross were “I thirst.” His thirst, your thirst, is for the hearts of every human being, that they may become sacred beings.
Help us through our dedication to the cross – no the crucifix – to proclaim before all the world what Jesus did for our salvation. Help us to hold high the image of Christ crucified. We carry it before us at the beginning and end of Mass. Help us to carry it also out into the world. Amen.