The reading from the Book of Numbers in today’s Mass is a classic text describing the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. After their miraculous release from Pharaoh’s armies, the people make their way through the desert where miracles are few and their steady march never seems to end.
The people lose patience. They had wished for an easier way. They complain about their food and they probably complained about everything else. Falling into a nest of snakes, they suffer from their poisoned bites. In answer to his peoples’ pleas, Moses fits a bronze serpent on a pole, and those who look at it are healed.
In the reading from John’s gospel, Jesus promises that when he is lifted up, he will heal those who look at him with faith.
The Lord wishes to lift us up by the power of his cross. This holy time is a time to receive healing through this holy mystery and gain patience for our journey.
Losing patience is still one of our greatest trials, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a long illness that turns our lives into a desert, or a strained relationship, or a marriage that ends without hope for repair, or dreams dashed by years of failure. We grow impatient, and impatience can be a poison.
So we look for signs that lift us up. Besides the cross of Jesus, there are people in our lives who are like him, who follow his example and his love. Look at them; they lift us up. They’re saving signs, strengthening us on our journey.