Deacon Jerry’s Lenten Reflection: 4th Sunday of Lent

Posted on March 5, 2024 by Published by

In this weekend’s Gospel from John (for the normal cycle, not the Scrutinies) Jesus explains to Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be lifted up on a pole just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent on a pole to heal the Israelites. They had sinned and, struck by poisonous snakes, were dying. Moses carried this image of the bronze serpent on a pole throughout the Israelites’ camp. Those who looked at the image in faith were healed from the deadly poison of the snake bite. Once again, God has given us a “Type” an event from the Old Testament that is similar to, or foreshadows, what Christ would do in his Passion journey to the Cross.

The serpent on the pole was a symbolic device that Moses used to cure people. The image of the snake was symbolic because the people were cured because they turned to observe the bronze serpent. It was their faith and God’s grace that cured them not because the bronze serpent had some magic potion or power. The Israelites and the whole world would be saved by Christ’s sacrifice if, again, we believe in and turn to God. Christ is offering us a healing treatment for sin, not a physical ailment.

Certainly, Christ performed many healing miracles. He cured people out of compassion and as proof that he was divine. Sometimes we become confused – you might even say desperate – when we or a loved one is sick, because we might demand a cure or try to bribe Christ to cure. We need to offer him faith, and perhaps the hardest part, accept whatever outcome that he gives us. Of course, God wants us to use whatever appropriate and ethical means are available.

Doctors and other healthcare workers wear a little “shield” as a sign of their healing vocation – a double serpent wrapped around a pole. This Caduceus comes from a symbol of the Greek god Hermes, and bears a striking resemblance to the staff Moses carried with the bronze serpent. What is God trying to reveal to us about the interplay of science and faith?

Deacon Jerry

Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Lectionary 32

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