Canon Michael's reflection for today.
Readings: https://universalis.com/mass.htm (click on the correct day on the right hand column)
Today we have a reading from the Book of Numbers. A strange book and a strange title, it sounds like a telephone directory. Though there is a great deal in the book about what we would say was numbers (how many were in each of the twelve tribes of Israel etc), there are also some very ancient stories about the wanderings in the wilderness.
Today's first reading is one of those stories, in fact you couldn't make it up. It must be a true story because it turns everything about the Bible upside down. Moses makes a graven image (something which was expressly forbidden in the first commandment) of a bronze serpent. He was commanded to do so by God himself. Now the serpent had always been seen as a symbol of evil yet, here in this story, all who looked upon the serpent were healed. Astonishing!
Jesus says in today's Gospel that when he is "lifted up", a clear reference to his crucifixion, then the world will know the truth. The amazing truth is that though crucifixion had always been seen as proof that you were abandoned by God, that it was a sign of desolation, it becomes through Faith the greatest sign of all healing. Through the Cross the sins of the world are redeemed.
It is so unexpected. This is how God works. In the book of Numbers a serpent becomes a sign of healing and the Cross, an instrument of execution, becomes the sign of the healing of the whole world.