Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, FSP, writing for Vatican Radio, is reporting on the homily in which the pope reflected on a reading from the book of Numbers which depicts the Israelites complaining about the long journey and the lack of food. The people blamed God and Moses for their plight.
As they drew closer to the promised land, Moses’ scouts reported on a land that was rich in produce but that was inhabited by a people who would be impossible to defeat. This news only added to the frustration of the people.
“By looking only at their own strength, they forgot the Lord’s strength which had liberated them from 400 years of slavery,” Pope Francis notes.
He went on to compare the Israelites to those of us who begin to follow the Lord but then turn back when the going gets rough.
It is at these moments that one says, ‘I’ve had enough! I quit. I’m going back.’ Then one begins to reminisce about the past—about the meat, the onions, and other wonderful things…. Such are the illusions the devil proposes. Once we begin to feel the heat of the day on the journey of conversion, the devil makes us see everything we left behind in a beautiful light, he said.
But this is a “sick memory” because it is full of a “distorted nostalgia.”
Thus, the Lord sent a punishment upon the people in the form of snakes to bite and poison them, which is a symbol of their poisoned hearts, he said. The remedy was to look upon a bronze serpent that is mounted on a pole. Anyone who did so, was healed.
“It was prophetic: it was the figure of Christ on the cross,” Pope Francis says. “And here is the key to our salvation, the key for having patience on the journey of life, the key to overcome our deserts: looking at the Crucifix.”
All we need to do is look at Jesus and his wounds, “for by those wounds we have been healed.”
He concluded his homily by telling a story from his childhood when he went to a candlelight procession on Good Friday with his grandmother. When a life-size statue of the dead Jesus came by, his grandmother made him kneel. “Look at that!” she said, “But tomorrow he will rise!”
The following day, “my grandmother, when she heard the church bells pealing announcing the Resurrection, had tears in her eyes because she was then beholding Christ’s glory.”
And so it must be with us. When we are feeling weary, alone, discouraged, it is then that we should look at the cross, not just to see a Savior who suffered like we did, but to see the triumph over death and suffering that He won for us. We may suffer now but, thanks to His sacrifice, one day we shall suffer no more!
“We adore you, Oh Christ, and we praise you. Because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world!”
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