Summary: As Moses lifted up the healing serpent, so the Jews lifted up Christ, the healer, on the cross, so that we might take him and be transformed.

April 4, 2006

Tuesday of 5th week in Lent

If we read John’s Gospel from start to finish, one of the impressions we get over and over again is that Jesus was surrounded by idiots and incompetents. It seems like every page turn brings the words “they did not understand.”

But there is nothing new about that, either for the Jews or for the rest of us. In the OT, God revealed Himself as a loving father, over and over again, but the Jews constantly rejected Him. We see this here in the impatience and culinary pickiness of the Hebrew people. The serpents are physical manifestations of their pettiness and jealousy and impatience, but even then, God rescued them by means of the great serpent-image that, like Christ lifted on the cross, saved all who believed.

It is important to note that, over and over again, John tells us that people believed in Jesus because of the Word He spoke to them. They were words, but they were also the Word of God, and it was a message and it was a person. The message and the person agreed–both were physical manifestations of the presence and compassion of God. And that presence–that God-with-us in Matthew’s terms–was transformative. The presence of Christ, especially his real presence in the Eucharist we share, gives us the encouragement, grace and purpose we need to change our lives for the better.

As we enter this last week or so before Easter, it would be a good idea to examine our own lifestyles for habits that keep us from doing good, not just those habits that guide us toward doing evil. It might be a habit of expenditure that keeps us from giving alms. It might be a pattern of eating that keeps us from a meaningful fast. It might be a habit of distraction that reduces our focus when we pray. Whatever it is, as we look on the Savior, lifted up for us on that wooden throne, He can give us the grace to heal us, to change us. As we take His body and blood, soul and divinity, he can make us over into images of Himself and His Mother.

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