Father David's Reflection for Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Lent
The Responsorial Psalm accepts the reality that often we do not cry out to God until we are in "distress."
Still, we know God will hear us: "O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you" (Psalm 102).
In Numbers 21: 4-9 the people "complained against God" because they were suffering. They asked Moses, "Why." but they didn't really want or wait for an answer. All they wanted was relief from pain. But when they began to suffer worse, they were ready to listen.
God healed them by having them look at a serpent mounted on a pole. "Whenever those who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, they lived."
The serpent is a symbol of sin, but not simply of sin. The serpent was a symbol and preview of all the sins of the world, our sins, taken within us into the body of Christ and "in Christ" raised up on the cross. The serpent represented Jesus whom God made to "be sin" so that "in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Corinthians 5:21). "We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin" (Romans 6:6).
The only way we can understand suffering or accept a God who has not eliminated suffering from the world is by looking at the mystery of the cross.
Jesus was a "stumbling block" and a Savior unacceptable to his people precisely because he chose to endure suffering and "love back" instead of stamping out evil and pain with divine force. The root of all rejection of him is in the words "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" (Matthew 27:40; Luke 23:39; see Matthew 4:6)
Jesus says in Luke 8: 21-30, "You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above." We naturally see things with eyes of this world. That is why we have to accept Jesus absolutely as God - the meaning of "I AM"(Exodus 3: 13-14)- and accept whatever he says and does even if we do not understand it. Then the mystery of the cross, a way of saving the world beyond anything humans could "ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20) and beyond all human comprehension, becomes, not a problem but a proof that Jesus is God: "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM." When we accept the mystery that the only way to save ourselves and the world from evil is to "endure evil with love" - to "love back" in Christ - we are graduate-school disciples.
Initiative: Be a disciple. Believe absolutely everything Jesus says. Then try to understand it. Discipleship is "faith seeking understanding."