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The Stumbling Block of Suffering

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Brothers and sisters:
Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written:

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the learning of the learned I will set aside.

Where is the wise one?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?
For since in the wisdom of God
the world did not come to know God through wisdom,
it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation
to save those who have faith.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 10-11

R. (5) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

NAB

aug 26

In today’s First Reading, Saint Paul details the craziness we Christians proclaim: that there’s glory in the Cross of Christ. He goes on to admit that the suffering Jesus endured for our salvation looks like foolishness to those outside of its redemption. He seems to imply that the only way to fully understand the beauty of the Cross is to first accept it as truth. Sometimes, we only understand once we believe.

Saint Paul could have written these same words today and they would be accurate. For those unfamiliar with the concept of redemptive suffering, a world that’s currently undergoing so much suffering can seem hopeless. One is able to easily write off the existence of a good God without a belief and comprehension of the power of the Cross, of the power of suffering used well. The Cross remains a stumbling block for many people, over 2,000 years later, because at first glance, it does not make sense. Only in light of the Resurrection do the pieces begin to come together for us, and we realize the great merit and significance of our earthly, fleeting suffering in this life.

Yet I can’t help but think of Saint Paul’s description of the Cross as a stumbling block in yet another way.

The Cross was literally a stumbling block for Jesus Himself. He fell three times under its weight. Three times, under the weight of our sins, of the taunts of the crowd, of the rejection by His friends, of the coarseness of the Cross, He stumbled.

When we walk with Christ, striving to be more like Him in all things, why should we expect the Cross to be different for us?

When we are given a cross to carry within our own lives, it can make us stumble. It can cause us to fall. It can cause us to doubt and question and wrestle with the hard stuff. And that’s okay.

What matters is where we go from there. Do we allow the Cross to remain a divisive wall between us and the sweet promise of the Lord’s salvation? Or do we, like Jesus, rise again, trusting that the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength?

How will we respond today, sisters? We all have crosses in our lives right now. Some bigger than others. But we have them, and they may be a stumbling block. I propose we strive to cling tight to the promise of redemption within suffering, confident in the meaning of the Cross and in our salvation through it.

photo credit

Olivia Spears is a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. You can find out more about her here.

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