“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM…”
Today’s Liturgy of the Word is an exposition of being lifted up. In the first reading, Moses lifted up an image of a saraph serpent so that people could look to it and be healed. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of himself being lifted up, and of course we know he means lifted up on the cross, so that when we look to him lifted up, we could be healed, of our brokenness, of our sin, of our slavery to death.
Just as the saraph serpent was lifted up on a pole in the desert for the people to see, and thus live, so the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, was lifted up on the cross for the salvation of the world. In these late Lenten days, the Church is looking to the Cross, looking toward Jerusalem, knowing that the hour of the Lord, in which he would pay the dear price of our salvation, is near at hand.
With hearts filled with gratitude, we come to this Eucharist, with our eyes fixed on our Lord lifted up for us, who pours himself out for us again and still. When we see him lifted up, we remember that he is “I AM,” our crucified and risen Lord, and whenever we look to him, we are saved from all that ails us, from our sins and brokenness, and we ourselves are lifted up to eternal life. Our challenge in these late Lenten days is to allow ourselves to be lifted up too, like the saraph serpent, so that people can look to us, and find healing and salvation in Jesus Christ. We have to be icons of the healing of Christ. We do that by accepting the grace and healing he gives us in our lives, and then living as healed people, people who know the One who saves them, people who point the way to Christ. That means that we have to be lifted up on the cross too, laying down our own lives, our own attachments to things that don’t matter, our own resentments, our own selfishness. We have to be the image of Christ crucified so that the world can become whole.