Both readings for Mass today (https://universalis.com/mass.htm) deal with sin – and redemption. The serpent in the first reading stands for sin; it was the serpent that suggested to Eve to break God’s command in the first place. And now, the same God commands Moses to lift up an image of serpent, that is sin, as a banner of victory.
Fr David shared with us yesterday one of the most powerful Catholic hymns: Vexilla regis.
“The Banners of the King issue forth, the mystery of Cross does gleam, where the Creator of flesh, in the flesh, from the cross-bar is hung.”
Indeed, in the bronze image of a serpent, a symbol of sin is lifted up like a banner of our faith – and, in the Gospel, transformed into an instrument of salvation: Just as in the desert sin was lifted up, God Incarnate was lifted up for us, with all our sins and guilt.
We are once again reminded that Christianity – when understood properly, in its Catholic fullness – is not a mere system of thinking, a set of philosophical ideas, a collection of lifestyle rules, or a narrow-minded obedience to a prescribed script. Christianity is always meant to be an encounter with a living God, with Jesus Christ, with a person lifted up on the Cross. A person who emptied himself to save us.
As Pope Francis said in his homily of 8 April 2014, “a Christian who is not able to glory in Christ Crucified has not understood what it means to be Christian. Our wounds, those which sin leaves in us, are healed only through the Lord’s wounds, through the wounds of God made man who humbled himself, who emptied himself. This is the mystery of the Cross. It is not only an ornament that we always put in churches, on the altar; it is not only a symbol that should distinguish us from others. The Cross is a mystery: the mystery of the love of God who humbles himself, who empties himself.”
O Lord, listen to my prayer and let my cry for help reach you.
By Fr Tomas