Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

A friend of mine just got back from visiting Haiti with Food for the Poor.   Last night at the Pastoral council he shared some of his testimony.   You could see from the look on his face and hear in the timbre of his voice that the trip had been an emotional journey as well as one that was physically arduous.  One of the most touching moments was when he spoke of a woman he had offered to pray for.  She, in turn, a woman who had nothing in the realm of physical things, offered to pray for him as well.   He knelt before her and she placed her hand on his head... and she prayed for him.. and for all his friends.. family.. and the Church.  She called us her hope... that's a label that puts a lot of faith in us... a lot of pressure on us to do more... and it definitely makes me want to do just that.

In the first reading today we see the people grumbling for what they don't have.. instead of being thankful for what they do have.   They have just been freed from slavery by a God so mighty and powerful that He Himself fought their battle against the Egyptian armies for them, swallowing them up before their very eyes with the waters of the Red Sea.   The God who can move mountains and had proven that He was with them was not one they trusted to provide the simplest of daily needs.  They trust Him to feed them.  They didn't look to Him to take care of them.   To teach them to trust He had them to look at an image of the affliction they were under, an image of the very poison that was running through their veins from the serpents.. a snake on a pole.

Over a thousand year later we find Jesus performing the same role.  He himself was to be hung on a cross.  An image of the very poison that runs through our veins... sin.   A man who had done no wrong suffering the death of a man who had done all wrongs.   The most heinous of deaths reserved for criminals and the dregs of society.   Just like that Bronze Serpent in the desert, Jesus was lifted up that those who looked to Him might be saved from the poison that crept towards their hearts.    The people refused to recognize Him in His life, but as Jesus said when they lifted him up on the pole like in the desert they would realize who He was... "I AM."

That cross alone is an image of death.   It's an image of crucifixion.  The Romans crucified untold numbers of humankind on that instrument of torture.   It's when we add Jesus to it that it becomes something else.. it transforms and instrument of death into a symbol of life.  A symbol of hope.  A symbol of love.  That's how God works.  He transforms us.   He takes the poison that is in us... anger, resentment, hatred, pain... and He transforms it into peace... gratitude... love.. and contentment.   Our circumstances don't always change... but we ourselves can.   Keep your eyes on Him.  Have faith, trust in the salvation promised by Christ.  Every time the Priest lifts up the Eucharist before your eyes look at Him again and know, that like the serpent in the desert, whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.   

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"illum oportet crescere me autem minui"

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary time: April 4th, 2017