Jesus is the cure for He endures- Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross – Numbers 21: 4-9

The Discovery of the True Cross, by Italian painter Agnolo Gaddi c.1350-96. Fresco, c.1385. Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, Italy

Jesus is the cure for He endures- Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross – Numbers 21: 4-9

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated every year on September 14, recalls three historical events. The first is the discovery in AD 320, of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine. This was found under the temple of Venus in Jerusalem. The second is the dedication of the Church in 335, built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary. The basilica was named the Martyrium, and the shrine, named the Calvarium but both were destroyed by the Persians in 614. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which now stands on the site, was built by the crusaders in 1149. Finally, the feast celebrates the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by emperor Heraclius II.

But in a deeper sense, the feast also celebrates the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation; His salvific death on the Cross and His resurrection, through which, death was defeated and the doors to Heaven opened now to sinners.

The first reading of today, taken from the book of Numbers gives us an insight into human behaviour and God’s divine response. During their wanderings in Sinai, the Israelite’s suffer from a series of self-inflicted short term memory losses. They forget the goodness of God and His constant provision for their many needs (not their greed). When they were hungry He gave them manna from heaven, but they tired of the taste of these “cakes baked in oil” and demanded meat; which guess what, they got in the form of quails!

When then, would this grumbling against God stop? The serpents seem to be a just punishment for a people whose demands resemble a sushi train that constantly needs replenishment. Yet Yahweh relents with what may best be best described as a nudge, in the form of a prayer, as compared to the demands of this ‘pushy’ people.

But here is where the twist in the tale lies. God does not take away the punishment that He has sent; strangely He does not make the snakes disappear. What God does is He provides them with a healing solution to their pain and suffering. Make no mistake, the snakes are still biting; they still pose a danger and from what we understand of their description, their bite ‘burns’; what God does is give them a cure for snakebite not take away the snake. For God has a greater plan, a long term solution  and He sees the bigger picture.

What then are we to understand from all this? The answer is in the Gospel of today, John 3:13-17. In answer to Nicodemus, Jesus replies, “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 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. 

Satan is that snake that never goes away. Make no mistake; God did not send or will satan. It is we, who constantly, by our turning away from God’s generosity find ourselves flirting in the shadow of sin, dancing a dangerous tango with this twisted mind of never ending traps. Satan bites and his sting of hell burns and so we cried to the Father who sent His Son, Jesus, so that who so ever believes in Him and looks at His cross with repentance, will not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus is the cure for He endures.

Fr Warner D’Souza

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