Tuesday 28 March 2023 5th week of Lent
The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’
At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.
Psalm 101 O Lord, listen to my prayer and let my cry for help reach you.
Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘I am going away; you will look for me and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’ The Jews said to one another, ‘Will he kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’ Jesus went on: ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I have told you already: You will die in your sins. Yes, if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.’ So, they said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus answered: ‘What I have told you from the outset. About you I have much to say and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is truthful, and what I have learnt from him I declare to the world.’ They failed to understand that he was talking to them about the Father. So Jesus said: ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself: what the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him.’ As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.
The initial part of this discourse reflects aspects of the first stage of the spiritual life: the purgative way. The Pharisees were living less than exemplary lives. They “belonged to the world”. They did not perceive reality as a mystery that is imbued with Divine presence. Their judgments were based on adherence to the Mosaic law. They failed to recognise the centrality of God’s relationship with Moses. In the purgative way, we strive to overcome the habitual stances we take towards life and that limit our capacity to love as Jesus loved.
There is a subtle shift in their questioning when the Pharisees asked, perhaps humbly, “Who are you?” This is a bit like the illuminative way of the spiritual life. If our soul is open, inquiring, and eager to learn we can receive what is revealed by Jesus. For his part, Jesus always points us to the Father.
Jesus says, “I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone because I always do what pleases him.” In these words, Jesus beautifully describes the unitive way. He and the Father are One, to see the Son is to see the Father. The Son does what the father shows him. As we follow Jesus, we not only come to know him more and more deeply, but a profound union develops. One’s life reflects his life, and one’s very being, mind, heart, and soul, begin to reflect the ways of the Father.
This encounter concludes with the wonderful statement that “many came to believe in him!” May we all reach union with Our Lord!