Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, March 23
What Was Once an Instrument of Execution and Humiliation, the Cross Has Become for Each One of Us a Sign of God’s Love and Our Salvation.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM…”
Each year, when you and I participate in the Easter Triduum – a three day period beginning with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday until Vespers or Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday – do we not begin to feel sorrow as we walk with Christ through His scourging and crucifixion, only to find ourselves feeling a sense of relief and joy on Easter morning, a sense of elation knowing that God’s Love has called us into a special relationship with Himself, calling us to become co-heirs with Christ Himself?
What was once a horrific instrument of Roman execution and humiliation, the Cross has become for each one of us a sign of God’s Love and our salvation – the means by which all mankind has been reconciled to our Eternal Father, our Creator, from whom we became separated so long ago through the disobedience of our first parents.
How many times, throughout the course of human history, have we, as God’s creation, turned our backs on His Fatherly Love? How many times, since our banishment from Eden, have we turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to His invitation to be His faithful children, returning to His Love, embracing His Commandments? We see this obstinacy and unreasonableness even in our First Reading today.
From the Book of Numbers, the Israelites were complaining about the conditions in which they were living – forgetting that God’s Love was sustaining them on their long pilgrimage from Egypt to the Promised Land.
As a consequence, they find themselves being bitten by saraph serpents, a very poisonous variety of snake. And many of those who were bitten died. Filled with both fear and sorrow, they petitioned Moses to ask God for His forgiveness. God, in turn, told Moses to create a staff with an image of a bronze saraph at its top, and those who were bitten and looked upon the bronze image were saved.
In an earlier chapter in Saint John’s Gospel, our Lord refers to the imagery of this saraph as follows: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
In this imagery, the Israelites looking upon the raised saraph for healing was a precursor of how we look upon the Cross of Christ today with the eyes of faith, for it is Jesus’ Cross of Life which heals, but it does so in a much deeper and much more profound way – for it is through the Blood of Christ which has been poured out for each of us that you and I have been justified, that we have been vindicated and saved from our sins.
The bronze serpent of Moses’ day, in its own way, was a foreshadowing of the Cross upon which Christ was raised, for it is through the Cross that Jesus defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for His believers, a true and lasting healing in which we all share.
In the scene from today’s Gospel, the Pharisees did not recognize who Jesus was, nor could they accept the message He was teaching. They shut themselves off to God and were not open to Jesus’ fulfillment of all that was written in Scripture concerning Him.
Their obstinate disbelief resulted in their own condemnation! That is why Jesus said, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.”
Some two thousand years later, it is hard not to see the descendants of these Pharisees, figuratively speaking of course, for they seem to be all around us! Not to be judgmental, but it is not difficult to discern objectively the lack of belief – an obstinacy, if you will, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ in today’s society!
We have liberalist thinking which places secularism and moral and theological relativism in the forefront of one’s way of life. For the sake of one’s eternal salvation, this way of thinking becomes very dangerous. It is a thinking which has been condemned by many of our Holy Fathers, for it ignores the salvific action of our Lord when He endured His Most Holy Passion.
Relativism is a term which refers to the belief that truth is relative, and can vary from individual to individual, from group to group, and from time to time. There are no moral or theological standards upon which one’s thinking or one’s life is based. That is why it is so dangerous to salvation! It is absent of any real belief. In other words, God exists with a small “g”, and exists only in our minds as an ideal or as something we use to quiet our fears.
In the Encyclical written by our late Holy Father, Saint John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), John Paul writes about Jesus Christ, who is “…the True Light that enlightens everyone.”
He goes on to say, “Man’s capacity to know the truth is also darkened, and his will to submit to it is weakened. Thus, giving himself over to relativism and skepticism, he goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself.”
We see this in the culture in which we live today. Sadly, many families see this in their children when they walk away from the practice of their faith due to the lure – the attraction – that the secularism of this world holds for them.
In a particular sense, even the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were relativists, when Jesus said to them, “You belong to what is below…You belong to this world.” Even though they verbally professed a belief in the God of Moses, their real gods were recognition, self-importance, wealth and power over the people!
That is why they could not recognize, nor did they know the Father about whom Jesus was referring, for their belief system was sadly and undeniably perverted! Their sense of truth was no longer God’s Truth.
During this time of Lent, especially as we are nearing the end of this part of our Lenten journey and about to enter into Holy Week and our Savior’s Paschal Mystery this coming Palm Sunday, we need to hold in prayer all those whom we love, and all those whom our Lord places in our life’s path, that, with the help of God’s grace, they may open their hearts and their minds to His Truth.
We need to pray with the strength of today’s Psalmist, “O LORD, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.”
For there is only one Truth which gives us peace, which gives us hope – a belief in all that is holy and good and nourishing for our souls, a belief in the One True God who loves us and feeds us with His grace, a God who invites us to enjoy eternal life with Him!
There is only one Truth which saves. That Truth is Jesus Christ! †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “So Jesus said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM…’” (John 8:28ab)
- “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
- “Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
- “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)
- “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
- “For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)
- “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
Prayer for the Day
“Most Merciful and Loving Father,Anonymous
Your Son suffered unbearable anguish;
He willingly poured out His Most Precious Blood
in fulfillment of Your will because of my transgressions.
“I was born in sin, totally dependent upon Your Love.
My human nature is filled with so many faults
and I am prone to so much weakness.
And yet, Your Son Jesus still died on His Cross – for me.
“I know Your grace has the power
to cleanse me of my many sins
and to make me more like Your Son.
“Thank you for Your Goodness and Love for me.
I humbly pray, Heavenly Father, in Your Mercy,
please watch over and protect me always
from the evil in this world. Amen.”