The Cross – Sign of Our Victory and Life
Crosses are always hard to carry and we are tempted to grumble and rebel in the pains and trials of life. But Jesus went ahead of us: he bore the cross for us and died on it, then he rose from the dead. God is stronger than death, and the foolishness and scandal of the cross have saved us from sin and death. The cross was Jesus’ way to victory. For every disciple of Christ it is the way to life and resurrection. Let us join Jesus in this Eucharist and celebrate with him the sacrifice of the cross.

First Reading: Saved by Faith in the Sign of Salvation
Tired and discouraged from their long journey and stay in the desert, the Hebrews lose faith in God and begin to revolt. God punishes them, but saves those who look up in faith to a sign of salvation.

1 Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.” Yahweh then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against Yahweh and against you. Plead with Yahweh to take the serpents away.” Moses pleaded for the people and Yahweh said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Second Reading: The Humiliated Christ Is Glorified
Jesus, God’s Son himself, humbled himself by becoming someone like us and even more so by dying for us on the cross. This is why he is now our glorious Lord.

2 Reading: Philippians 2:6-11
Though being divine in nature, he did not claim in fact equality with God, but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in his appearance found as a man. He humbled himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted him and gave him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 78:1bc-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
R. (see 7b) Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Hearken, my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable,
I will utter mysteries from of old. R.

While he slew them they sought him
and inquired after God again,
Remembering that God was their rock
and the Most High God, their redeemer. R.

But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues,
Though their hearts were not steadfast toward him,
nor were they faithful to his covenant. R.

But he, being merciful, forgave their sin
and destroyed them not;
Often he turned back his anger
and let none of his wrath be roused. R.

Gospel: Jesus’ Saving Death Gives Life
Because he loved us, God sent his Son into the world as man. By his death, Jesus brought us forgiveness and life.

Gospel Reading: John 3:13-17
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved.”

The seraph was mounted on a pole and the people were told to look at it-to look at what had bitten them. And they were healed. This bronze serpent is seen as an image of Jesus on the Cross. But Jesus went to the cross, under the burden of the law and of people’s hatred. He took it upon himself to live the way of God truthfully and to die clinging to God and being obedient to God’s will, even if that meant being rejected and killed. Jesus was the fullness of God, God in our flesh and blood, and he humbled himself to come and live with us as a human being, dying with us, even dying on a cross as the least of us.
Somehow this mystery of the incarnation of God is what we are to become-we, our flesh and blood in Jesus, are to become the Body of Christ given in love to the Father in the power of the Spirit. Our humanness is to become the holiness of God. This is our salvation. We are loved and given the very life of God in Jesus.
Does it feel like Lent? Monastic Lent began on this day and the liturgical calendar reflects this still. It is time to look upon our God, upon the cross, and kiss the symbol of our life, our salvation and recognize that we are made in the sign of the cross.

We ourselves have been marked
with the sign of the cross
as people saved by a serving Lord.
On account of the cross,
we have to learn to forgive,
to bear one another’s burdens
and to accept the realities of life
as people of hope and trust,
with the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Let us go in the peace of Christ. R/ Thanks be to God.

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