Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Feast)
The people complained. (Numbers 21:5)
Snakes are hissing around your feet. People are falling, poisoned by the venom. Your hope starts to fade as you know it is only a matter of time before you, too, are bitten. Suddenly, a voice calls out, telling all to fix their eyes on a bronze serpent raised high on a pole. As you force your eyes away from the slithering mass on the ground, you see the serpent and notice that everyone else who has looked at it is being healed.
According to this passage, it all started with complaints about bad food. How could the Israelites complain about something so inconsequential when they had just been rescued from slavery? Now, we probably don’t have to deal with actual serpents, but today’s first reading is a classic example of how even small complaints can open the door for other little “snakes” that can poison the atmosphere in our homes or workplaces.
We all know what it’s like to get caught up in unnecessary complaining. It can happen to the best of us. What starts off as an innocent venting of frustration, if not checked, can turn into impatience or anger. Then, criticism, gossip, or unkindness comes slithering in. Before you know it, we find ourselves in a predicament we don’t quite know how to fix, as the Israelites did.
Enter the power of the cross! Just like the serpent in this reading, the cross was a symbol of death. It was one of the cruelest, most humiliating forms of capital punishment. But now through Christ it has been transformed into a symbol of life. Why? Because Jesus willingly embraced the cross out of love for us. Now, even death gives way to its power, and the poisonous bite of sin is overcome.
Today, take a moment to think about what Jesus’ sacrifice has meant to you. Think about the victories his cross has won in your life. And whenever you feel tempted to complain, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and name ten of those victories out loud. Count them on your fingers, and watch the complaints melt away.
“Lord, thank you for the love that you poured out on the cross for me.”
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne