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Look to the Cross and Break Those Chains

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Reading 1 Nm 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road,
to bypass the land of Edom.
But with their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
"Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!"

In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
"We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents away from us."
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
"Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live."
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21

R. (2) O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
O LORD, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
"The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die."
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

Verse Before the Gospel

The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
all who come to him will live for ever.

Gospel Jn 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come."
So the Jews said,
"He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, 'Where I am going you cannot come'?"
He said to them, "You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins."
So they said to him, "Who are you?"
Jesus said to them, "What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world."
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said 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.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him."
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Oh, those ungrateful Israelites. Shame on them!

Almighty God sent incredible plagues to thwart the Egyptians and split the Red Sea in two. He provided a way so His chosen people could leave the chains of slavery behind and enter the Promised Land. And still they grumbled and murmured against Him. I can practically hear them whining now: “We’re tiiiiiiired. We’re huuuuungryyyyy. This is awwwwwful. Are we theeeerrrre yet??”

Their lack of faith was not without consequence; the Lord sent deadly serpents to attack them. When they turned back to God and prayed for relief, He provided a way out. Only those who looked upon the bronze saraph mounted on a pole by Moses survived the serpents’ deadly attacks.

Yes. It’s easy for me to shake my head in disbelief at the immature and clueless Israelites. They grew weary and impatient and frustrated and doubted that God was making a way for them not only to survive, but to thrive.

Yet, if I’m honest with myself, am I any better than the grumbliest of grumblers in the desert?

Here I am, living in a time when the coming of the long-awaited Messiah is not just a far-off promise, but a present reality. I can encounter my Heavenly Father in the Sacraments, Scripture, prayer, and community. He provides everything I need for salvation. And still, I doubt. When things get ugly or the path ahead is unclear, I wonder if God can really lead me through my own messy wilderness into His own marvelous light.

Fear, doubt, anxiety—these are the chains that weigh me down and keep me from fixing my eyes on Jesus and the ultimate Good News of that old, rugged Cross. My sin and weakness prevent me from living the truth that communion with Him is everything I want and need—that He truly is I AM.

Anytime we see a crucifix or pray the Stations of the Cross is another opportunity to remember God’s unrelenting faithfulness to us and His abiding compassion and merciful love. In His death at Calvary, we remember that The Great “I AM” took on human flesh to break the chains of fear, doubt, worry, sin, and death so that you and I may live through Him, with Him, and in Him forever.

Today, let us gaze upon the Cross as we pray: Lord Jesus, I believe You love me unconditionally. I believe You are everything I need and desire. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Amen.

Heather Renshaw is a writer, speaker, and uplifter on a mission to love and serve God with her husband and five children in the Pacific NW. You can learn more about her here.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Jenne
    April 4, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I love this! Recently, I discovered an unhealed wound in my own heart which causes me to doubt the Father cares for me. Maybe it’s from growing up with a loving father who worked 40+ hour weeks to provide for my 5 siblings and I. I understood I was loved, but he was not emotionally present, until recently. The Father provides for me, but he needs to work in order to do that. This lie has carried on for the majority of my life – He’s not really present or doesn’t care about those little details of my life – that part, is for Jesus to “deal with”.
    When I discovered this, I began asking the Father to show me his love. Jesus asked me, “Have I not been with you?” Jesus shows us the Father! Have you ever really thought of that? Jesus’ WHOLE life and mission was about showing us the Father. It’s as if Jesus is the engagement ring, but the Father is the man who gave it to us! We get so caught up in looking at Jesus’ love for us, which rightly matches the Father’s, but how often do you contemplate ALL that Jesus did was to show us that we have a Father who loves us? His deepest desire is for us to know the Father. I feel like that just changes everything. “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone…” That applies to us as well.
    Grace of the day.

  • Reply
    Heather
    April 5, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Such a beautiful realization, Jenne! Thank You, LORD, for speaking the Truth to us and loving us right where we are.

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