Numbers 21:4-9 / John 8:21-30
Jesus warns the Pharisees; "Where I am going you cannot come. "
When Jesus said, "Where I am going you cannot come," the Pharisees wondered if he was planning to take his own life. Rabbis held that people who took their life went to the deepest part of the nether world. This shows how terribly the Pharisees had misread Jesus and how far from the truth they were. What Jesus actually meant was that he was returning to his Father in heaven. Spiritual blindness is a terrible sin. It implies a deliberate closing of one's eyes to the truth. This seems to have been the situation of the Pharisees. This is why Jesus told the Pharisees, "You will die in your sins."
Do we ever tend to close our eyes to truth because we are afraid of what we might see? "The eye does not see what the mind is unwilling to look at." Anonymous
An incontestable truth is that only faith saves. For the Jews wandering in the desert, faith in God’s power—presented here in the form of a bronze serpent—will save the rebellious people of God. The Pharisees have to accept Christ in faith if they want to be saved. We too must look up to the cross with eyes of faith to become free people and God’s sons and daughters. And we, the Church, must become the sign of salvation raised above the nations.
We have all heard about parents who have disowned their child. It may have been because of a marriage the parents did not approve, or because the son or daughter has gone off to live a hippie-type existence. Whatever the reason, it is a terrible thing to hear a father or mother say, “Out of my sight! You are no child of mine!"
So-called fire and brimstone sermons are no longer popular. Nor would such a sermon be appropriate for you. However, it is healthy sometimes to remember that it would be very terrible thing for any of us to hear from God, "Out of my sight! You are no child of mine!" After all, the Church in this Mass has had us listen to the words of Jesus, “You will surely die in your sins unless you come to believe that I am." If we do not wish to die in our sins, we must turn to Christ as our saviour. When the Israelites in the desert were punished for their sins by means of deadly serpents, they were saved by turning in faith toward the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses. St. John the evangelist saw in the lifting up of the serpent a type or sign of Jesus' being lifted up on the cross, and he wrote, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that all who believe may have eternal life in him" (Jn 3, 14).
And so, we turn to Christ in faith because we want to have eternal life. We want no part of mortal sin, but as God's children we should be concerned about even small offenses against God. Small sins count too. It is good for all of us to remember that we should take venial sins seriously, in the sense that we should really be trying to please God in all things. Jesus lifted up on the cross has the power to save us not only from the deadly bite of mortal sin but also from the minor prick of venial sin.
Our saving, merciful God, wandering in our deserts of injustice and lack of love, we cry out with fear or are stunned into silence, some into doubt or despair. Give us enough trusting faith to look up to him who took our evil and doubts upon himself, suffered for them on a cross, and rose from them, Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our Lord. Amen