First Reading: From the Book of Numbers 21:4-9
4 They left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt round Edom. On the way the people lost patience.
5 They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is neither food nor water here; we are sick of this meagre diet.’
6 At this, God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel.
7 The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede for us with Yahweh to save us from these serpents.’ Mosesinterceded for the people,
8 and Yahweh replied, ‘Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.’
9 Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived.
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 78:1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
1 [Psalm Of Asaph] My people, listen to my teaching, pay attention to what I say.
2 I will speak to you in poetry, unfold the mysteries of the past.
34 Whenever he slaughtered them, they began to seek him, they turned back and looked eagerly for him,
35 recalling that God was their rock, God the Most High, their redeemer.
36 They tried to hoodwink him with their mouths, their tongues were deceitful towards him;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 But in his compassion he forgave their guilt instead of killing them, time and again repressing his anger instead of rousing his full wrath,
Second Reading: From the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians 2:6-11
6 Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped.
7 But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being,
8 he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.
9 And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names;
10 so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
11 and that every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of St. John 3:13-17
13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man;
14 as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up
15 so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
16 For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
Theme: So must the Son of Man be lifted up
Do you know the healing transforming power of the cross of Jesus Christ? The Lord Jesus came to unite earth with heaven and to raise those on earth to the glory of heaven. Jesus explains to Nicodemus, one of the chief leaders of the Jewish nation, that he is the “Son of Man” sent by the Father in heaven to restore our broken relationship with God. The “Son of Man” is a key Old Testament title for the Messiah who comes from heaven to establish God’s kingdom on the earth (see the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14).
Moses delivers his people from death in the wilderness
What does Jesus mean when he says the “Son of Man must be lifted up?” Jesus links this expression with Moses who “lifted up” the bronze serpent in the wilderness in order to bring about healing and restoration of life to those who were bitten by deadly serpents. This plague of death was the result of the peoples’ stubborn refusal to follow God’s counsel and direction for their welfare. God in his mercy heard the prayer of Moses to free his people from this curse. God instructed Moses to “make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live” (Numbers 21:8). Moses lifted high the image of a bronze serpent fixed to the wood of the pole, which resembled a cross. Those who put their faith in God by repenting of their disobedience were healed and restored to wholeness of life.
Jesus links his victory on the cross with Moses’ act of deliverance
Jesus clearly links Moses’ act of deliverance in the wilderness with his own impending sacrificial death when he will be “lifted up” on the wood of the cross at Calvary. Unlike Moses’ deliverance in the wilderness which only resulted in temporary relief for the people, Jesus’ atoning death on the cross brought decisive victory over sin, Satan, and death. Jesus’ victory on the cross cancels the debt of our sin, and releases us from guilt and condemnation. His death and victory brings us new life – the new abundant life in his Holy Spirit which lasts forever.
Jesus’ victory on the cross also brought about his glorious bodily resurrection to new unending life and his ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven, where he now rules and intercedes for us. The result of Jesus “being lifted up on the cross,” and his rising and ascending to the Father’s right hand in heaven, is our “new birth in the Spirit” and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only has redeemed us from sin in Christ, he also fills us with his own divine life through the gift of his Spirit that we might share in his own glory.
The proof of God’s love for us
There is no greater proof of God’s love for us then the sending of his Son to become one with us in our humanity and to lay down his life for us. “To ransom a slave God gave his Son” (an ancient prayer from the Easter vigil liturgy). God sent his Son to free us from the worst of tyrannies – slavery to sin and the curse of death. Jesus’ sacrificial death was an act of total love through self-giving. Jesus gave himself completely out of love for his Father. And he willing laid down his life out of selfless love for our sake and for our salvation. His death on the cross was both a total offering to God and the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sin and the sin of the world.
John tells us that God’s love cannot be limited because it is boundless and encompasses all of creation (John 3:16). His love is not limited to a single nation or a few chosen friends. His love is limitless because it embraces the whole world and every individual created in “his image and likeness”. God is a persistent loving Father who cannot rest until all of his wandering children have returned home to him. Saint Augustine says, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.
The love of God is rooted in truth, goodness, and mercy
God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love and not love. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God’s truth, goodness, and mercy. If our love is guided by truth, goodness, and that which is truly beautiful, then we will choose for God and love him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer. Do you love God who is the supreme good above all else? And do you seek to put him first in all your thoughts, cares, choices, and actions?
God’s love sets us free to love and serve others
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Do you allow God’s love to purify your heart and the way your treat others? Do you allow God’s love to transform your mind and the way you think of others? Do you allow God’s love to conquer every unruly passion and addiction that would enslave you to sin and harmful behavior? The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God’s presence (see Isaiah 11) that we may live God’s way of life and serve in the power and strength of his enduring love and mercy. Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?
“Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life for us. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may walk in freedom and joy as a child of God and as an heir with Christ of an eternal inheritance.”