Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we approach ever closer to the time of the Holy Week, we are reminded of why we do all the fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent. In the first reading today, from the Book of Numbers, we heard what happened to the people of Israel as they journeyed through the desert. They rebelled against God and God sent punishment to them in the form of fiery serpents that killed many of them.
The people of Israel begged for mercy from God through Moses, and Moses implored the Lord to have pity on them. Seeing that they have suffered and that they wanted to end their rebellion against Him, and the sincerity of their repentance, God showed His mercy and instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent placed on a stand so that all those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and saw the bronze serpent would not die but survive and live.
And in the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to all those who followed Him about the upcoming persecution and suffering that He would then soon endure during His Passion and death on the cross. He spoke to them that He would be lifted up for all to see, the Son of Man and Saviour of the world, Who was crucified like a criminal even though He was innocent and did nothing wrong.
Through this, we can see how the event in the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is linked to the time of the salvation of mankind through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. At the time of the Exodus, God brought His people Israel out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. However, they were unfaithful and they were constantly rebelling and disobeying Him, to the point of making for themselves a golden calf to be their deity and god.
As God was angry at them, for their wickedness and sins, the fiery serpents represent the punishment for all those sins and disobedience, much as how the sins that all of us mankind have done, bring about with it punishment and consequences. And many of the people of Israel died bitten by those fiery serpents, reminding all of us that the consequence for sin is death.
When we were created by the Lord, when Adam and Eve were still walking in the gardens of Eden, God did not intend for mankind to suffer and die, for it was not His intention. But, because they have sinned and disobeyed Him, therefore, they were cast out of Eden, and had to wander in this world in suffering, and death reigned over them. Ever since, all mankind, without exception, met the end of their lives in death.
But God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is that love which allows Him to show us His mercy when we His people sincerely desire to be forgiven, through our petition and grievances, through our regretting of our sins and wickedness, by our humble submission to His grace and love. And God Who loves us will indeed forgive us our sins if we are sincere in seeking to be forgiven.
That is just as how He gave a new chance to the Israelites by asking Moses to make the bronze serpent to rescue them from their predicament. And while that applied only to the people of Israel who died in the desert, God made the same thing to happen to all of mankind, by the sending of none other than His own Beloved Son, to be the One through Whom He would exercise His mercy and forgiveness.
And Jesus willingly took up upon Himself the multitudes of our sins, our defilements and all the things that had separated us from God and His love. He bore all those sins on Himself, carrying His cross through the way of suffering from Jerusalem towards the hill of Calvary. It was at Calvary where He was raised up for all to see, as the Sign of God’s salvation, forgiveness and grace, a reminder of the bronze serpent that saved the Israelites.
By the cross of Christ we have been saved, a new hope and light had dawned on us. God has given us a second chance, because He loves each and every one of us. But are we willing to be forgiven our sins? Are we allowing God to enter into our hearts and help us to transform ourselves from the creatures of sin and darkness that we were once, into beings of light worthy to be called the children of God?
That is the question we must ask ourselves, and which we must ponder on as we go through this time of preparation in Lent. We need to spend time to reflect on our lives, our actions and deeds in life thus far. Have we been faithful to the Lord, walking righteously in His ways? Or have we been wayward and disobedient like the people of Israel in the past? Have we ignored God’s laws and commandments, by our hatred, our jealousy, our selfishness and human greed?
Let us look upon the cross of Christ, the body that lies hanging on the crucifixes we have, at our homes, at our churches and wherever we are, and at our personal crosses and crucifixes. Whenever we look at Him Who is crucified, let us first of all remember that we are all sinners and should have perished because of them. Then remember how Christ died for all of us, bearing all the burdens of our sins as His own. Remember how He suffered for our sake, taking the punishment on our behalf, that we will not perish but live.
Let us devote ourselves with new commitment, looking at the example of today’s saint whose feast we are celebrating. St. Isidore of Seville was the Bishop of Seville during the years of the early Medieval era, who was credited with the conversion of the kingdom of the Visigoths in present day Spain from the heresy of Arianism into the orthodox and true Christian faith.
St. Isidore lamented the corruption that permeated the society and the people at that time, as morality became ignored and the faith among the people faltered. St. Isidore therefore laboured hard to bring the people of God back to the faith, by preaching to them the truth of the Gospels, and calling them to repentance. He stood firmly against the false teachings of Arianism and by his works, he managed to bring multitudes of souls to salvation.
Inspired by his examples, all of us Christians should endeavour to do the same as well. We should come closer to the Lord and change our sinful ways, repent from all of our past wrongdoings, realising just how much God loves us and wants us to be reconciled with Him. And we need to help our fellow brethren, especially those who are still struggling with sin and with their wickedness.
Let us endeavour to help one another, that each one of us may learn to draw closer to God, so that we may find our way to reconciliation with our God. May all of us learn to be humble, and beg the Lord for His forgiveness, by committing ourselves to change our sinful ways, and walk in righteousness and grace from now on. May God help us all, and may He bless all of us always. Amen.