Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture readings in which we heard about the sins of Israel from our first reading today, telling us about how God sent fiery serpents to strike at the people because of their disobedience, and those who were bitten, were doomed to die. There was no cure for the serpent bites, no medicine could cure the affliction.
But in the end, as we see in the story, God had mercy on His people as they begged Him for forgiveness and mercy. They regretted all the sins and wicked deeds they had committed, and God gave them rescue from the fiery serpents through His servant Moses, who commissioned a bronze serpent to be built and lifted up high in the midst of the people, so that all who were bitten by the serpents and gazed on the bronze serpent would not die.
Then we heard from our Gospel today, what the Lord Jesus plainly told the people, about His upcoming Passion and death, when He would be betrayed to His enemies and abandoned by His disciples, suffering contempt and rejection by His accusers who levelled false charges and all sorts of lies against Him. What we heard today in the Gospel is in fact a parallel of what we heard in the Old Testament reading.
How is that so? First of all, the Lord Himself in another occasion in the Gospels mentioned to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who was interested in His teachings, the comparison between Himself and the bronze serpent which Moses once wielded and raised before the sight of many for their salvation from their troubles. He said that just as the bronze serpent was lifted up high for all to see, so the Son of Man, Jesus Himself would also be lifted up high, high on the cross.
Surely we are all familiar with all the events surrounding the crucifixion, suffering and death of Our Lord Jesus. He was condemned to die on the cross, given over to the Romans who punished Him for mistakes and sins He did not commit. Yet He willingly accepted that suffering and being lifted up on the cross, so that through that act of singular and ultimate sacrifice, He can save us from our fated destruction.
For our sins and our wickedness are what had driven the people of Israel to sin as well. In their greed and desire for things of this world, they grumbled without end when they journeyed through the desert, complaining of hunger and thirst, and not satisfied even though God has given them and provided for them more than sufficient food, manna from heaven and good quality water flowing from the rocks in the middle of a dry desert.
How about us? Do we realise that we ourselves often have done the same to God? We have often forgotten God and put Him aside in our daily pursuits for worldly material goods, worldly concerns for power, for prestige, for honour, for adoration and human praise, for comfort and pleasures of the flesh, and many more. We often only remember God when we are in trouble, and when we do so, we demand Him to do things for us in accordance with what we want, and when we do not get what we want, we become angry at God.
When God is not the foremost and first in our minds and in our hearts, it is easy for us to turn to sinful ways and to disobey God’s commandments. It is our ego and greed that led us astray, and when we allow those things to distract us from our attention towards God, that is when we fall into sin. And because of sin, we are supposed to perish and die, because of our disobedience that led us to be corrupt and unworthy of God, just as the Israelites were bitten by the serpents and perished.
But God had mercy on us, and He gave us the best source of help and salvation, through none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, His own Beloved Son, to bear all the burdens of our sins, which He took up willingly on His cross. And as He was lifted up on that cross, all those who saw Him, and even though who did not see Him, but believed in Him and His sacrifice on the cross, would be saved from damnation, and receive a new life from Him.
Then, do we truly believe in His saving grace, which He has offered for us so generously from the cross? When we look at Him Who is on the cross, do we see in Him our salvation and promised Saviour, or do we fail to realise this reality presented before us? Now, I invite all of us to spend some time to reflect before the Lord on the crucifix, looking up towards Him by Whose death we have been reconciled, and through Whose suffering and pain we have been saved from eternal damnation.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the Holy Week of the Passion of Our Lord, let us all look at Him, Our Crucified Messiah, by Whose sacrifice and death we have been saved. Let us all remember His love for us, and all that He had done for our sake. Shall we commit ourselves to love Him more and more, and devote ourselves more wholeheartedly from now on?
May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith, that we may find our eternal rest and true joy in Him. May He bless us each and every one of us all to live faithfully and with greater commitment to love Him and to love one another, living a true and blessed Christian life with zeal. May God continue to watch over us, His people, now and always. Amen.