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First Tuesday of Passiontide

April 12, 2011

Blessed Tuesday!

Lord, help us to do Your will
that Your Church may grow and become more faithful in Your service.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Readings:
Numbers 21:4-9 (the bronze serpent)
Psalm 102:2-3, 16-21 “O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to You”
+John 8:21-30 (we must believe in Jesus to be saved)

You will surely die in your sins unless you come to believe that I AM
-John 8:24 (emphasis added)

That’s not hyperbole. God’s dead serious.
And when He says “believe”, He means “stake your life on it.”

There’s precedent for that.

While the Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land
they ran into trouble out in the desert.
They grumbled about water. They grumbled about food.
They grumbled about the Promised Land itself. They grumbled about Moses.
Now, their patience worn out by the journey, they grumbled about everything,
topping it off by grumbling about the miraculous manna!

We are disgusted by this wretched food!
-Numbers 21:5

Wretched food?!
They’re talking about manna, bread from Heaven, which

serving the desire of him who received it,
was blended to whatever flavor each one wished
-Wisdom 16:20-21

You have a sweet tooth? Your manna tastes like honey.
Is your mouth watering for a nice juicy steak, slathered in onions and garlic?
That’s your manna-flavor for today.
This is your wretched food?!

That did it. God had had enough.

In punishment God sent among the people seraph serpents
which bit the people so that many of them died.
-Numbers 21:6

They didn’t believe in the God Who had revealed Himself to Moses as I AM
(see Exodus 3:14).
They died in their sins.

When those who remained begged Moses to pray for them,
God commanded Moses to lift up a brazen serpent, that all who looked upon it might live.
Notice that God didn’t remove the serpents.
They were a constant reminder of the consequences of grumbling!
But those who believed enough to look at the bronze serpent were saved.

That faith was a matter of life or death.

You will surely die in your sins unless you come to believe…
-John 8:24 (emphasis added)

Fast-forward about 1400 years…

God’s not done with that bronze serpent.
No, it’s not around anymore.
King Hezekiah had to destroy it about 700 years later
because they’d turned it into an idol (see II Kings 18:4).
But the story is still very much a part of their history.
Jesus had already referred to it when speaking to Nicodemus, early in His public ministry:

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up
that all who believe might have life in Him.
-John 3:14-15

As His public ministry draws to a close, He brings it up again.

When you lift up the Son of Man,
you will come to realize that I AM
-John 8:28 (emphasis added)

The Israelites in the desert didn’t have a monopoly on sin.
They weren’t the only grumblers around.
We’ve all suffered from the ancient serpent’s bite (see Revelation 20:2-3, Romans 3:23)
and it’s just as deadly now as it was back then.

Once again, God’s provided the remedy.
The Son of Man has been lifted up.
The same I AM who sent the seraph serpents, has Himself been raised on a pole
so that all who are dying of the poison of sin might believe, look up, and be saved,
fixing their eyes on things above, rather than on things of earth (see Colossians 3:2).

You belong to what is below; I belong to what is above
-John 8:23

We still have the privilege of lifting our eyes to behold this sacred remedy.
The Son of Man is lifted up in every Mass, in every consecrated Host,
the fulfillment foreshadowed by that “wretched food”
the Israelites had so despised (this is sounding familiar…).

Once again faith is a matter of life or death…eternally.
Either we stake our lives on Jesus (doing what He says!)
or we die…forever.

Because He spoke this way,
many came to believe in Him
-John 8:30

Whew!

Saved! (This time, anyway…the snake’s still there…)

What about you?

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