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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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The Spirit of Lent: The Wisdom of the Cross

By Rev. Joseph Krastel, C.Ss.R.
The Spirit of Lent: Seven Lenten Meditations on the Work of the Holy Spirit

At Baptism, the Holy Spirit grafts us like a branch onto Christ, the vine. Also, the Spirit who unites us to Christ gives us seven spiritual gifts that are reinforced at Confirmation.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit guide and help us in our spiritual growth. Chief among these seven gifts is wisdom, which always directs us to Christ and salvation.

Wisdom has special value in Lent because St. Paul contrasts true wisdom, the wisdom of the Cross, with “worldly wisdom.” In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul recalls his experience of preaching in the Greek city of Corinth. After Jewish citizens rejected his ideas, he began to preach to the well-educated people of the city. But the learned could not accept Jesus’ rising from the dead. Finally, Paul turned to the dock workers and prostitutes of this port city. These poorly educated residents opened their hearts to Jesus’ cross and resurrection and became the first Corinthian Christians.

In the first two chapters of his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes true wisdom, the wisdom of the cross. During Lent we have the perfect opportunity to meditate on the “wisdom of the cross” and to advance in spiritual science. No matter how many years of university education we have, we desperately need a few semesters in the “wisdom of the cross.”

Paul starts by warning: “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.” (1 Cor 1:18) Quoting Isaiah, Paul adds: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned, I will set aside.” (v. 19) The media, the education industry and politicians encourage people to take more classes, to advance in science, history and literature. Others try to make sure that young people grow up with street smarts, so that they will be clever in advancing their material wealth and quick to notice others trying to get an advantage.

Yes, God wants us to develop our personal gifts, to learn more so that we can be reliable guides in our families and in helping others. But Lent invites us into the desert with Christ for a few courses in the “wisdom of the cross.” This elective is anchored in a question, “Why would Almighty God become a human, destined for the horror of crucifixion?” The answer sums up the Lenten season. It takes us years to appreciate God’s love for us. It takes more time to make it the primary motive of our lives.

Wisdom helps us to keep the image of the crucified and risen Lord always before us. It helps us to shuffle our priorities, putting God’s will before earthly gains and pleasures. As we spend these days of penance with Jesus, St. Paul’s words echo in our hearts: “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1:25)

Fr. Krastel professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1959 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1964. He is an associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, MD.

Previous reflections:
40 Days with Christ in the desert
The dewfall of the Spirit
Peace be with you
The Spirit of daily Mass
Healing hearts and division