In our first reading from Numbers, the Israelites, out of frustration and exhaustion and impatience, complain against God and Moses, and God punishes them by sending saraph serpents who bite the people, and many of them die. The people repent, and ask Moses to intercede for them. And in response, God tells Moses to fashion a bronze serpent, mount it on a pole, “and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.”
In our Gospel reading from John, Jesus is again trying to tell the people who He is. Finally, Jesus says to them, “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.”
When we reflect on Jesus on the Cross, can we believe that the love and sacrifice demonstrated there really come from God? Can we believe God really loves us that much? I ask the question because if we really do believe in God’s love for us, then we can look at Jesus on the Cross, and, like the Israelites in the desert bitten by the serpent, we, too, can “recover.”
We can recover from despair and anxiety. We can recover from anger and bitterness. We can recover from prejudice and hatred and fear. We can recover from weariness and apathy and complacency.
Jesus is I AM for us. Jesus is God’s love revealed to us. May we look upon Him and see His love and sacrifice and be healed.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.