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When the Snakes Come to Bite You

First Reading: Numbers 21:4B-9

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 from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they 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: Psalm 78:1BC-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

Do not forget the works of the Lord! Hearken, my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter mysteries from of old. While he slew them they sought him and inquired after God again, Remembering that God was their rock and the Most High God, their redeemer. But they flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues, Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him, nor were they faithful to his covenant. But he, being merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not; Often he turned back his anger and let none of his wrath be roused.

Second Reading: Philippians 2:6-11

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel: John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

ESV

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Ladies. I did a little happy dance when I saw my Old Testament reading for today. It’s my favorite. Just ask my kids.

Anytime one of them starts bellyaching about something or other, I’ll ask them, “What does God do to complainers?” And they have to respond, “He sends snakes to bite them.” Because it’s TRUE. It’s right there in the Bible. They know it so well that sometimes I’ll just hiss at them and poke them with two fingers, mid-complaint, so they remember. Seriously. I’m fun.

Poor Moses. He’s doing his best. He’s keeping his charges safe and fed and un-enslaved and all he gets is whining and griping and grumbling. I can really identify with that feeling sometimes. But guess what? I’m just as guilty of being on the other side as well. Murmuring against God. Caught up in creature comforts. Failing to see the big picture.

But it’s gazing upon one of those same snakes, the symbol of their weakness, that saves those who are bitten. Acknowledging my own weaknesses, being willing to gaze upon them and ask God’s forgiveness . . . that’s what will save ME as well.

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Today we celebrate this instrument of degradation and torture, that became the instrument of our salvation. Just as the people of Israel gazed up at the bronze serpent and lived, we can gaze upon the cross, and know our weakness, and find our strength.

photo by Madi Myers-Cook

Kendra Tierney lives in Los Angeles, CA where her interests include blogging, homeschooling, looking after her eight children, and suburban homesteading . . . in case of zombies. You can find out more about her here.

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