In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus is trying to convince the people that He is the Messiah, the Son sent from the Father to save His people. He tells them, "For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." But the people do not understand. And Jesus then says, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me."
Once again, Jesus shows how different the Gospel is from the ways of the world. When He tells the people that they will recognize Him when He is lifted up, He is of course referring to being lifted up on the Cross. God’s power is not revealed in the taking over of a nation, or wresting it away from a foreign empire. God’s power is revealed in love and sacrifice.
What do we "realize" when we look at the Cross? Do we realize that God, the great I AM, the source of all being, the One beyond the limitations of time and space, chooses to love us that much? Do we hear Jesus indeed saying what the Father taught Him to say: "You mean this much to me?" Can we see that we are not alone in our sufferings and trials?
In our first reading from Numbers, Moses was told to make a bronze representation of a seraph serpent, so that the people could be healed from the bites of the real serpents. May we look upon the Cross, and open our hearts to Christ’ healing love for us.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Fairfield, Alabama.