Nm 21.4-9; Ps 95.10-13; Phil 2,5-11; Jn 3: 13-17
- Dear Brothers and Sisters
May the Lord give you peace!
Today we celebrate the renewal of our beautiful Church of Kos, dedicated to the Holy Cross. It is an occasion for us to reflect on the mystery of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, that brought us redemption and salvation.
I wish to reflect with you only on one aspect, which is about the transition from the experience of healing to the experience of salvation. It is the transition from looking at the bronze serpent raised in the desert to believing in the Son of God raised up on the Cross.
- In the account taken from the Book of Numbers, the chosen people, during their journey in the desert, precisely because of the concrete difficulties they encounter, at a certain point begin to murmur "against God and against Moses". God - always according to the account of the Scriptures - uses a form of correction which before our eyes may seem very harsh, exaggerated, even cruel, He sends poisonous snakes that bite the people and many people die. This experience leads people to recognize that they were wrong: "We have sinned!". Then God intervenes once again in what appears to be a strange way: He does not eliminate the snakes, but orders Moses to place a bronze snake on top of a pole. Whoever looks at it is healed. The chosen people experience a salvation which is a physical healing. He experiences a salvation that is not the disappearance of poisonous snakes, but the care offered through an act of trust in God. Moses is the mediator of this physical salvation.
- In the Gospel story it is Jesus Himself, during His nightly conversation with Nicodemus, who resumes the narration of the Book of Numbers and the symbolism of the bronze serpent raised on the pole. He does it to speak of Himself and to open to a dimension of salvation deeper than that of physical healing, the dimension of participation in the life of God: “And as Moses raised the serpent in the desert, so the Son of man must be raised, because whoever believes in Him has eternal life. In fact, God loved the world so much that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life. God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world through Him" (Jn 3: 14-17).
Physical healing is certainly a beautiful thing. We all desire it when we get sick or when a person we know and whom we love is sick. But the experience of healing is a pale allusion to the experience of salvation, a weak analogy of what salvation is. Salvation is not about removing the experience of death for a few hours, or a few days, or a few years. The experience of salvation is entering into a full form of life, which is the fruit of the personal relationship with Jesus, with the one who has life in Himself, can give it and can take it back, in fact He can and wants to share it with us.
- Here we are in a cemetery, which reminds us how short our life is. I know that I will die, yet I know that when I welcomed Jesus into my life with His Word and His Spirit, and I accepted the invitation to live in a relationship with Him, He himself laid the seed of eternal life within me. Eternal life has already been sown in me precisely thanks to the gift that Jesus made by giving His life for me and passing through the mystery of death in love for my sake and to bring me to know the Father and live in Him.
- Baptism and the Eucharist, flowing from His open side on the Cross, transmit His life and this gift of salvation to me. His words, which are Spirit and Life, transmit to me His own Spirit "who is Lord and gives life".
Today we see an afflicted and distressed humanity, full of fear because of viruses, wars and climate disasters. We fear and look for scientific remedies.
We should be even more interested in being able to experience what the chosen people experienced in the desert, that is, we should be interested in being able to experience conversion, to be able to live the difficult global and personal situation as an appeal to change our way of thinking and living.
Even more, we should be interested in making the transition from the experience of purely physical safety to the experience of salvation, which introduces us to eternal life and communion with God. May our crucified Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns from His Holy Cross, lead all of us to this mystical but real experience of salvation. Amen.