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,
"illum oportet crescere me autem minui"
A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary time: April 4th, 2017