John’s account of the “cleansing” of the Temple ends with the statement that Jesus “did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.” Jesus understands human nature because, as God, he is the author of that nature, knowing it in the way that only the artisan can know his or her work. Jesus understands human nature because, as truly human, he knows from within the experience of being human. Jesus, above all others, knows our natures better than we know them ourselves.
This is a statement both frightening and consoling. It is frightening because it means that, despite my best efforts, I cannot fool God. I may fool myself – convincing myself that I am more or less than I in fact am – but Jesus knows the human heart in all its pretense and vanity, its greatness and misery. At the same time, it is consoling because Jesus, knowing intimately the ways of the human heart, loves us anyway and calls us into new life with him. This is what Lent is all about. It is about letting ourselves be called to new life by the one who understands human nature in all its greatness and foolishness.
In the second reading, Paul tells us that he proclaims Christ crucified, who is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but who is the power and wisdom of God to those who have received God’s call. Part of the Lenten task is to abandon our pretense that we alone know ourselves so well that we alone can set the agenda for our lives. We may tell ourselves that Jesus’ way of life is foolishness and weakness, but Paul is saying that, no, Jesus’s way is the way to a truly human life. Lent is the time to listen for the call of the one who knows human nature as its author and possessor so that we might know the power and wisdom of God.