Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the role that Christ Our Lord has in the salvation of the whole world, especially because we are approaching the time of the Holy Week, when we will commemorate the most important event not just in our entire liturgical year, but also in the whole of our human history and existence.
And we begin today’s passages with the reading from the Book of Numbers where we heard the moment when God struck against the Israelites during the time of their Exodus from Egypt and travel to the Promised Land. This was because of the people’s stubbornness and lack of faith in Him, as they grumbled and complained again and again, saying that they were suffering in the desert, when the fact was such that the Lord provided them with ample food to eat and water to drink, and guided them throughout the way.
As a result, fiery serpents came into their midst and bit the people, and many who were bitten by the serpents died. And only after this that the people regretted having disobeyed God and begged Moses to intercede for them before God, that God would not destroy His people because of the sins they have committed. When Moses asked God for help, he was told to make the image of a serpent from bronze and put it up on a staff, that it might be lifted up high and made visible to the whole people.
This is what the Lord Jesus alluded to as He spoke to the people as recorded in our Gospel passage today. He mentioned how He was about to go to a place that they could not follow, as a reference and prophecy of His own upcoming and indeed, then imminent suffering and death on the cross. As He approached the moment of reckoning the Lord often spoke of His own suffering and death to the people and to His disciples, many of whom could not quite understand why He said all those ominous words.
He mentioned clearly before the people how the Son of Man will be lifted up high for all to see, and He revealed that the Father’s will shall be fulfilled in due time, when the plan of salvation that He had put in place, is completely fulfilled by the obedience of the Son, that is Jesus Christ Himself. And this salvation is much like what was already earlier alluded and experienced by the Israelites themselves, when Moses made the bronze serpent in the desert.
The bronze serpent is a representation of Christ Himself, the Son of Man Who was to be lifted up high on the cross, just as the bronze serpent is put on a tall staff that everyone might be able to see it. And just as the bronze serpent became a symbol of hope and salvation for the sinful and disobedient people of Israel, thus Christ Our Lord has become the symbol of hope and salvation for each and every one of us, the children of men.
The serpents that bit the Israelites are the sins that we have committed in our lives, and as St. Paul mentioned, the sting of sin is death. Thus, just as the Israelites perish due to the sins of their disobedience and refusal to believe in God, thus all of us should have perished because of our sins and disobedience. But through Christ, all of us have received a new hope in the salvation that He is offering to all of us freely and generously, the forgiveness of our sins and the liberation from our bondage to those sins.
And just as the bronze serpent was lifted up, in fact, what we see is Christ being lifted up, gathering all of our sins, the ‘serpents’ of our life, and gathering them all upon Himself, that He, the Sinless One, would suffer the suffering of the combined weight and burden of all of our sins. By His suffering and wounds therefore, we have been brought a new hope and salvation, because of the great and boundless love He has for us all.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to draw closer to the beginning of the Holy Week, let us all focus our attention on Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Who has willingly taken up our sins and suffer for us. As we look upon the Christ crucified, let us all look upon Him and realise the great love that He has for us, and the mercy He has shown us, in the desire He has to forgive us from our sins and reconcile us to Himself.
Have we had in us the desire to repent from our sins? God has shown us such great love and mercy, that we ought to be ashamed at the continued presence of sin in our own lives. Let us all turn ourselves completely to the Lord and grow ever stronger in our faith and dedication towards Him, at all times. May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us all to live courageously with faith, each and every days of our life from now on. Amen.