THE TRIUMPH OF THE CROSS
numbers 21:4b-9; philippians 2:6-11; john 3:13-17
some years ago, i read a real-life story about a little girl who had severe burn injuries. every day, the medical team would take her for debridement. she suffered excruciating pain but never complained. instead she often remarked: «i know you are doing this so that i can get well.» this amazing kid knew that the pain was an essential part of her recovery.
«pain brings gain» is an unwritten law of life. surgery is painful; it saves. a child’s departure from home is painful for parents and child; the child needs it to become his/her own person.
«pain brings gain» is the thrust of this sunday’s liturgy.
in the gospel, JESUS leads nicodemus to the heart of his messianic mission: «the son of man must be lifted up as moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.» nicodemus would recall the «serpent event» during the sojourn in the desert: the israelites’ ungratefulness brought on GOD’s displeasure; poisonous snakes bit them. moses asked GOD for a way to save them. GOD did not take away the serpents. instead he had the people gaze at a bronze serpent which symbolised their sin. the symbol of their pain became the instrument of their salvation.
JESUS says that he must become like the bronze serpent; he must be «lifted up» so that all who gaze upon him on the cross will be saved.
the snake was the pain and the gain. the cross was the pain that brought gain.
can the things that are hardest in our life be the vehicles that bring us closest to GOD? what are the crosses i need to accept… to experience wholeness?
in moments of suffering, let us look to JESUS on the cross. may he strengthen us to live through and accept our sufferings. amen.