In order to really understand what Jesus means in this Gospel passage about the serpents Moses lifted up we have to go back to the Book of Numbers 21:4-9. During their long wanderings in the desert the People of Israel lost patience and spoke against God: Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness.
One foggy, stormy night at sea, a ship’s captain caught sight of what looked like the lights of another ship heading straight toward him. He ordered his signalman to relay a message to the oncoming ship: "Change your course twenty degrees to the south." Immediately came the reply, "No, you change your course twenty degrees to the north." The lights were getting closer, so the captain responded firmly, "I’m a captain. Change your course south."
I often find myself saying this or that reading is one of my favourite passages of scripture. Well, this one certainly deserves to be in the top ten: The Transfiguration. There is so much food for thought that every time you look at it you see different things.
This year we have the final part of the story of the flood and Noah’s ark. It is a wonderful story. And every time we look at a rainbow we are reminded of God’s promise. The rainbow, that most beautiful and transient of all things, is as we have heard, a reminder of God’s covenant; the close bond he established with us after the great flood. He makes his promise not only to mankind but also to every living creature. Respect for creation is not something new; the creator himself respects the whole of creation more than we ever could.
The disease most dreaded by the Jews of old was leprosy. It was an infectious plague which struck fear and horror into its victims because there was no hope of a cure. The fate of the leper was truly pathetic. As soon as the first signs of the disease appeared, the afflicted person was debarred from all social life and forced to withdraw from society. This meant bidding farewell to his family, leaving behind his way of life, his trade, everything and everybody he had ever known and loved.
We have all seen and heard one time or another, even if only on television, a Scottish bagpiper standing on the battlements of a castle late in the evening or walking on a moor at dusk playing a lament on the pipes. Beautiful though it is, usually once was enough! But seriously, the bagpipes seem to be able to play the lament better than almost any other instrument. It is surely something to do with the Scottish landscape and the Scottish temperament. The absolute dependence on the harsh hills and the even harsher sea is certainly part of it.
One of the things that might strike us about the readings for today is the exorcism of the man in the synagogue. Among you there may be several different reactions to this mention of exorcism.
There are two very interesting words used in today’s Gospel reading: ‘time’ and ‘repent’ I think it would be interesting if we took a bit of a look at them. In Greek these two words are kairos and metanoia. Kairos –time; and metanoia –conversion.
John the Baptist looks hard at Jesus and says, ‘Look there is the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples with him immediately follow Jesus. This says a lot about John the Baptist. It says that he had schooled his disciples to follow Jesus when he was finally able to point him out.
What a cause of joy we have today! To a world sunk in sin and hopelessness our heavenly Father sends us a Saviour.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket