Thursday (September 14): "So must the Son of Man be lifted up"

Meditation: Do you know the healing transforming power of the cross of Jesus Christ? The Lord Jesus came to unite earth with heaven and to raise those on earth to the glory of heaven. Jesus explains to Nicodemus, one of the chief leaders of the Jewish nation, that he is the "Son of Man" sent by the Father in heaven to restore our broken relationship with God. The "Son of Man" is a key Old Testament title for the Messiah who comes from heaven to establish God's kingdom on the earth (see the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14).

Moses delivers his people from death in the wilderness
What does Jesus mean when he says the "Son of Man must be lifted up?" Jesus links this expression with Moses who "lifted up" the bronze serpent in the wilderness in order to bring about healing and restoration of life to those who were bitten by deadly serpents. This plague of death was the result of the peoples' stubborn refusal to follow God's counsel and direction for their welfare. God in his mercy heard the prayer of Moses to free his people from this curse. God instructed Moses to "make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8).  Moses lifted high the image of a bronze serpent fixed to the wood of the pole, which resembled a cross. Those who put their faith in God by repenting of their disobedience were healed and restored to wholeness of life.

Jesus links his victory on the cross with Moses' act of deliverance
Jesus clearly links Moses' act of deliverance in the wilderness with his own impending sacrificial death when he will be "lifted up" on the wood of the cross at Calvary. Unlike Moses' deliverance in the wilderness which only resulted in temporary relief for the people, Jesus' atoning death on the cross brought decisive victory over sin, Satan, and death. Jesus' victory on the cross cancels the debt of our sin, and releases us from guilt and condemnation. His death and victory brings us new life - the new abundant life in his Holy Spirit which lasts forever.

Jesus' victory on the cross also brought about his glorious bodily resurrection to new unending life and his ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven, where he now rules and intercedes for us. The result of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross," and his rising and ascending to the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit" and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only has redeemed us from sin in Christ, he also fills us with his own divine life through the gift of his Spirit that we might share in his own glory.

The proof of God's love for us
There is no greater proof of God's love for us then the sending of his Son to become one with us in our humanity and to lay down his life for us. "To ransom a slave God gave his Son" (an ancient prayer from the Easter vigil liturgy). God sent his Son to free us from the worst of tyrannies - slavery to sin and the curse of death. Jesus' sacrificial death was an act of total love through self-giving. Jesus gave himself completely out of love for his Father. And he willing laid down his life out of selfless love for our sake and for our salvation. His death on the cross was both a total offering to God and the perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sin and the sin of the world.

John tells us that God's love cannot be limited because it is boundless and encompasses all of creation (John 3:16). His love is not limited to a single nation or a few chosen friends. His love is limitless because it embraces the whole world and every individual created in "his image and likeness". God is a persistent loving Father who cannot rest until all of his wandering children have returned home to him. Saint Augustine says, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.

The love of God is rooted in truth, goodness, and mercy
God gives us the freedom to choose whom and what we will love and not love. We can love the darkness of sin and unbelief or we can love the light of God's truth, goodness, and mercy. If our love is guided by truth, goodness, and that which is truly beautiful, then we will choose for God and love him above all else. What we love shows what we prefer. Do you love God who is the supreme good above all else? And do you seek to put him first in all your thoughts, cares, choices, and actions?

God's love sets us free to love and serve others
God's love has been poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Do you allow God's love to purify your heart and the way your treat others? Do you allow God's love to transform your mind and the way you think of others? Do you allow God's love to conquer every unruly passion and addiction that would enslave you to sin and harmful behavior? The Holy Spirit gives us his seven-fold gifts of wisdom and understanding, right judgment and courage, knowledge and reverence for God and his ways, and a holy fear in God's presence (see Isaiah 11) that we may live God's way of life and serve in the power and strength of his enduring love and mercy. Do you thirst for new life in the Spirit?

"Lord Jesus Christ, your death brought life for us. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may walk in freedom and joy as a child of God and as an heir with Christ of an eternal inheritance."


This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/