Author: Lisa Graas
•4/08/2003 01:53:00 AM
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Today when I was having a particularly difficult time with my daughter who was being very disobedient, I thought to myself something that I always try to ask in these situations. "How would God handle this?" When I read a story like the one from the Book of Numbers today, I consider myself to be a very lenient parent. I mean, God sent SNAKES to punish His disobedient children! Fortunately for the Israelites, they repented of their dark ways. It was then and only then that God commanded Moses to fashion a sacramental for them in the form of a bronze serpent so that any of them who were bitten could look upon it and be healed.

It seems rather harsh for anyone to unleash snakes upon anyone. I get shivers just thinking about it. Would a loving God do such a thing? Well, the question should really be, "Would a JUST God do such a thing?" Of course, we know that God is all-just as well as all-loving whereas we are NOT all -just and all-loving, so who are we to say, my friends? Who are we to say that God is not just or not loving? These things must all be read in context.

The Lord regards the prayer of the destitute, as it says in the Psalm. He hears the groaning of the prisoners. The Israelites were groaning, but they weren't just groaning from their sufferings. No, they were complaining against God Himself. This makes all the difference. It is no sin to complain, but to complain against God? That is serious business. How do we know it is serious business? We know because we have this story about the Israelites and the snakes to show us!! The snakes were bad news for the Israelites, but look at how many generations have, by virtue of this event, learned to fear the wrath of God? Wow. How many sins have been averted due to this event? It is impossible to say.

Something else about this story that speaks to us is the fact of God's active presence in their lives through Moses as well as through the healing bronze serpent. How often do we avail ourselves of the opportunity to use sacramentals like holy water and relics in order to bring healing into our lives? These things are available to us because God wants to have a physical connection with us. We are no more apart from God than the Israelites were. In fact, the Incarnation and our understanding of the Incarnation has made it so that we can even draw ourselves closer to God than they ever could have. Wouldn't you love to have a healing bronze serpent to heal you? Well, you don't have a serpent, but you do have sacramentals, so why not use them?

There are two lines of thinking when it comes to sacramentals. One thinks they are useless and the other thinks they are helpful. The one who thinks they are useless is the one who is attached to this world and, at the same time, not allowing himself to think that anything spiritual could be connected with something material. The other understands that when God created the world, He called it good. Matter is not evil. Jesus used mud, among other things, to heal people. I mean, c'mon, did He really need to do that? Nope. But He used those things and, therefore, sanctified the use of matter for such purposes.

Jesus says in today's Gospel that we should not "belong to this world". We are citizens in the Kingdom of God. The spiritual world is all around us and even penetrating the matter which God created and called "good". There is a spiritual battle being fought all around us at all times. If we can remain mindful of this fact, it is easier for us to remain obedient children. If we remember to use all of the gifts at our disposal, God will not turn aside from us. Do not be connected to this world. Be connected to the next .......... and it is really amazing how, when one makes that break and begins to be connected to the next world, how much SENSE the use of sacramentals finally makes.

Just one last note.......... in case you've forgotten..... Jesus makes reference in today's Gospel about being "lifted up"............. and if you remember, He compares that elsewhere to the lifting up of the serpent in the desert. May you find healing whenever you look upon a crucifix.

God bless you.

Love from Lisa

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