Fr. Michael Schleupner offered this reflection last week, the fourth Sunday of Lent, a lesson of healing that we can carry with us any time as we gaze up at the cross.
The Lifting Up: Background
Jesus says: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up…”
Jesus is referring to an incident when the Israelites were in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt. Life got very difficult, and they got sick and tired of the harsh conditions. So, they began grumbling against God. In effect, they turned their back on God and on their faith.
Then there came a plague of poisonous serpents and many of the Israelites were bitten and died. Eventually, they turned back to God for help. God then told Moses to make an image of these serpents out of bronze, mount it on a pole, and lift it up. God promised that all who looked at this would be healed, and that’s what happened.
The Lifting Up: Jesus on the Cross
So, Jesus says: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must I be lifted up.”
He is foretelling that he will be lifted up on the cross. And those who look upon Jesus on the cross will also be healed. But there is a difference. Our looking or gazing at Christ on the cross will make us aware of sinfulness. It will begin a gradual process of spiritual healing us.
So, I invite you to look at Jesus on the cross with me and I will suggest some ways that this might be healing.
The Lifting Up: Our Healings
For example, we gaze at Jesus on the cross, giving of himself and his life completely for us. In this, he makes us aware of when we are not giving of ourselves and are too self-focused. Jesus begins to heal us of our resistance to placing the needs of others above our own preferences. He moves us to be generous in giving of ourselves, maybe for our aging parents or for our adult children who are having a hard time.
Then, we gaze at Jesus extending his arms on the cross in such an open, inclusive way. Here he makes us aware of when we are narrow in our vision. Jesus begins to heal us of our tendency to see certain people as excluded from God’s love. He moves us to be as open and inclusive as he is.
Then, we gaze at Jesus on the cross forgiving those who have crucified him. Here he makes us aware of when we are holding back on forgiveness. Maybe we cannot or should not re-establish the relationship, but Jesus can begin to heal us of the animosity that we are carrying. He moves us to be as forgiving, as letting go of negative energy, as he is.
And finally, we gaze at Jesus on the cross, suffering, suffering until he gives up his spirit. Here he makes us aware of our sufferings – physical, emotional, spiritual, or relational. Jesus begins to heal us of our weakness in dealing with suffering. He breathes into us his strength, his perseverance, and his trust in the Father.
So, Jesus has been lifted up on the cross, just as he said would happen. And if we look up and gaze at him, we too can be healed – of our human imperfections, weaknesses, and sinfulness. And the effect of this takes us to the last part of Jesus’ words.
“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.” This process draws us into the life of God right now and leads us to eternal life with God.
~Fr. Michael Schleupner
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