Once I was in conversation with my mom and I asked her about her marriage to my dad and the special customs they had to go through. While it was not surprising that she had to ask her parents for permission to marry, as customary to the Vietnamese tradition, it was, however, quite strange when she told me that her parents did not give her permission because of my dad’s faith. “It was not because he was Catholic,” she said. “But it was because of Jesus.” What she said took me by surprise so I asked her what she meant. She told me that it was because her parents thought it to be absurd for people to believe in a God so frail hung upon a cross and suffered death.
As I listened to the second reading this past Sunday, the feast day of Christ the King, that conversation between my mom and me came to mind. Additionally, two verses from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians also came to mind: “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:22-23) Indeed, Christ ungrounds Hellenistic wisdom and stupefies traditional Jewish thought. “How can God, the uncaused cause, become flesh and suffer?” the Greeks must have wondered cynically about Jesus. “Why has the Messiah not restored peace to the Kingdom and destroyed our enemies?” the Jews must have thought doubtfully of Christ. And two millenia later, people still do not understand the one paradox that exists within Christianity; that profound paradox that sees the King of kings washing the feet of his disciples, giving his flesh and blood as everlasting food, suffering for the sins of the world, hung upon a Roman cross so Rome can show that it has power even over the King of the Jews, died on that Roman cross, buried, and raised again on the third day.
This paradox is the heart and most cherished wisdom of the Christianity while it is despised and ridiculed by the wisdom of the world. It is the wisdom of the King that tells us that all people should be loved, while the wisdom of the world tells us that only those who are valuable and convenient for our lives are to be love. The wisdom of the King teaches us that the greatest love will demand everything we have to give, while the wisdom of the world tells us that the greatest love is everything others must give to us. And while wisdom of the King may be mocked by the wisdom of the world, it will ultimately be the King who will sit upon that throne on the last day. And on that last day, I would rather have a King whose wisdom is expressed in his love by death upon a Roman cross two millenia ago than a king whose wisdom is to separate himself from those below his station. On that last day, I would rather have Jesus the King than the kings of men.