March 20, 2018 – Tuesday in the 5th Week of Lent
Saint for the day: Salvatgor of Horta (1520 – Mach 18, 1567)
Numbers 21:4-9 – Psalm 102 – John 8:21-30
“When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself.”
In these last days of Lent the Church gives us enough scripture “tie-ins” to chew on. Today’s scriptures connect the Old and New Testaments with Jesus presenting Himself as the “New Adam.” The story of the Israelites getting bitten by snakes, along with Moses’ remedy is easy for us to see. But underneath this is a wealth of symbolism about our fall from grace and our redemption.
This takes us all the way back to “The Fall.” None of us have any trouble with the imagery of that story but it’s good to flesh it out. The evil one, disguised as a snake slithers down from the tree of life to tempt Adam and Eve with the promise “you will be like Gods.” In the end, the serpent is consigned to a role of slithering along on the ground. Much of the symbolism of that story is easily missed: the serpent, at first, was hiding in the “tree of life.” So much of our failures or sins are first seen as “good” and hidden amongst apparently good things.
The serpent, in punishment for leading Adam and Eve into sin, is consigned to a life of slithering on the ground. But we’re not finished with the serpent, yet. Even in his punishment, he still masquerades as being innocently “humble” (a clear reference to the meaning of the word, “grounded in the earth”) and continues to trick us into thinking that we can still “become like Gods.”
Jesus breaks that cycle by Himself being “lifted up on the Cross” just like Moses who took the serpent (a symbol of sin) and lifted it up on a pole (cross) so that the people were freed of the sin they had committed. But we can’t leave out the final thought in this symbolic story: Even though Jesus was lifted up on the Cross for our salvation sin is still lurking there – most often hidden to make us think that “it’s OK.” We can’t just look at Jesus on the cross. We have to embrace Him in His life-giving act of love. Then, and only then, do we “become like God’s and see Him as He really is.” Amen!