March 23, 2021 – Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent
Numbers 21:4-9, John 8:21-30
“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself” (Jn. 8:28). Jesus applied the image of the bronze serpent to himself. We should focus our attention on the cross that bore our Savior. Like our forebears in the faith, we have been journeying through the wilderness of COVID-19 longer than we anticipated. What is even more challenging, just as people are getting vaccinated, a new wave of infections is beginning. Like our Hebrew ancestors, our patience is wearing thin, and we are losing sight of our goal. Because the pandemic is not going away, we are feeling resentment towards God, because he is not meeting our expectations. Like our ancestors of old, we are upset because God is not giving us what we want — everything back to the way it was pre-COVID. We want the comfort, security, and pleasure of our former life.
Here is the rub: there is no going back. Jesus hints at this: “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). We are challenged to wipe the sweat from our brow and trudge ahead, not knowing what the future will bring. To make progress, we have to lift up our heads and direct our gaze to the one who has been nailed to the cross for our salvation. The restrictions of COVID-19 have made us face the reality of our frailty and admit our sins. We need to be vaccinated against more than the virus. We need to be drawn out of ourselves into communion with the Triune God. Pope Francis likened racism to a virus that lurks in waiting. It emerges and shows that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think. Discrimination, racial or ethnic bigotry, and sexual harassment hinder our ability to appreciate the gift of every human being we meet.
“God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Lent is the acceptable time for us to stretch out our hands to Him who stretched out his arms between heaven and earth as the everlasting sign of the Father’s love. Christ calls us to his outstretched arms, not to condemn us but to bring us into communion with the Blessed Trinity, a communion from which no one is excluded. Lent is the acceptable time for us to take up our cross and walk in the steps of Christ, who is our Way, Truth, and Life. May Christ who stretched out his arms on the wood of the cross to draw each one of us to his loving embrace, clothe us in his life-creating Spirit that we might stretch out our hands to those we meet and bring them to the knowledge of God’s love. Being caught up in Christ’s loving embrace may we come to know the infinite and ecstatic fire of his divine love.