In the first reading, the Lord sends “seraph” serpents: “seraph” means fiery.
Maybe that’s how it felt if you got bit by one.
The Lord sends fiery serpents as a punishment.
But stop and consider the sort of “punishment” this is.
If you’re out walking with a group,
and someone sees a snake, what happens?
Don’t you yell out, “Watch out: snake!”
Then what do you do?
Some of you will stay cool—you’ll walk away; others—you’ll run!
But the point is, you’d change direction.
That was the point: God’s People needed to change direction.
Of course, some people are hard-headed; and they got bit.
Even then, God provides a remedy:
a bronze serpent, nailed on a pole.
They only had to look at it; and it was portable—they brought it to you!
So notice: it is not we who close the distance between us and God;
it is God who always goes the extra mile,
and closes the distance between us.
He comes to us, to offer us healing.
A serpent mounted on a pole—it’s rather strange:
why would God do that?
Well, consider this.
Because it’s so strange, it would command attention.
Everyone would turn and look.
How about a man on a pole?
An innocent man, a good man, the best there ever was?
Beaten so badly it would make you throw up to see it.
And not just a man on a pole—but God!
“Behold the Man!” “Behold your God, O Israel!”
That commands the attention of the world!
“If I be lifted up,” Jesus said.
There’s another reason for putting a snake on a pole:
Everyone who got bit would recognize,
“this is about my situation—this is for me.”
And when someone suffering on the Cross—
Suffering wrongly, cruelly—
We can say, “God knows what I’m going through.”
A poor man, a powerless man—“God knows.”
But it’s also a warning: “change direction!”
The Cross is a rude reminder of what sin really is.
But remember: that man is on the cross
because other people put him there.
How much ugliness and suffering
in our world is exactly the same?
The past few weeks, a hurricane blew through Haiti,
through Florida, through Louisiana, and now Texas.
Haiti got hit the worst.
Yes, it’s true, Haiti got hit several times, but—
Even the one time was still worst for Haiti of all.
You know one reason why?
They’re poor—they don’t have our resources.
their shacks are made of garbage.
And one reason they’re poor
is the country is run by gangsters.
But here’s the thing: what do we do about it?
We sent an army half way around the world,
we’re pouring hundreds of billions into rebuilding Iraq.
But poor Haiti, lies at our door like Lazarus at the gate.
We step over Haiti every time we go all over the world--
poor Haiti doesn’t have anything we care about.
Haiti is on its cross not only because of the cruelty of some,
but also the neglect of everyone else.
Maybe that seems too remote.
People look at porn on the Internet—it’s a huge problem.
They say, “what’s the harm?”
It’s also a huge industry.
Those people in the pictures—what’s their story?
Were they desperate for money? Those pictures are forever.
Will they catch something and get sick? What will become of them?
How many people are on the cross because of the cruelty of some,
and the neglect of everyone else.
We see on the cross, a ruined, murdered man:
that’s what sin does to humanity.
Yet we call today the Triumph—the Victory—of the Cross.
Victory, because God took the worst thing,
the nightmare, and that’s where he charged in with life and hope!
We are not afraid of the crosses in our lives, because God is on the Cross with us, beside us.
We are not afraid of the power of sin, because God has offered us a remedy, hope!
How many people carry the weight of sin,
when all they have to do is come to confession,
and in a few moments, it’s all gone!
“If I be lifted up…”
As you know, I was traveling this week; I reflected on this Feast, but I was only able to write out my thoughts on Saturday. And I didn't know how to end this homily.
Well, in a sense, you will end it: the sign of the Cross is before you, what do you choose?