Image: Raven perched on the steeple of Holy Name of Mary church, Tsiigehtchic
I have a strong repulsion to snakes, even the smallest, most harmless type. As a teenager I had a job on a farm clearing brush, and I would jump back in disgust every time I uncovered the hiding place of a toothless little garter snake. Maybe that’s why I love living in the north, we need to watch out for bears and wolves but at least there is no snakes.
It’s a common phobia and maybe that’s why the encounter with the fiery serpents made such an impression on the complaining Israelites in today’s first reading. I can only imagine the horror of having to guard each footstep of their journey so as not to disturb and be struck down by one of those slithering reptiles.
It is interesting, that when the Lord intervenes to provide an antidote to the ailment, the cure is the same as the cause. Moses is instructed to take the very thing of which the people are most afraid and ask them to gaze upon it. In doing so they will find the remedy to their sickness. Where once they walked with their eyes cast down in fear and bitterness now, they would raise their heads, look up and live.
This is the same theme that we find in our Gospel reading today. The authorities cannot make sense of Jesus. They are afraid of him; they don’t understand him, and they don’t know what to do with him. They murmur among themselves but not one of them has the courage to take any action towards him.
Their view is downward, earthbound. They can only see Jesus in human terms, and he doesn’t fit into any of the regular boxes they are familiar with. But Jesus asks them to look in a different way, to look up. He tries to open their eyes to the truth that stands before them, that he is in fact the answer for all that ails the world.
Jesus uses the image of being raised up, a foreshadowing of the cross which he will have to take up, that they might see in him not just a man, someone to be feared, but the Son of Man. As they look up, they will see the gift of the Father which is love and mercy and a remedy for their sins. The one who they once feared would be their salvation.
It’s not easy to raise our eyes when there are obstacles on the road, snakes under every rock. But if we never look up to catch sight of our goal, we are sure to lose our way. Our faith is the gift which allows us to lift our heads and to keep sight of the path. It doesn’t mean every step will be carefree, but if we keep our gaze upon the Lord, we know that we have the protection that we need for our journey.
Keep sight of the one who loves you, keep your gaze upon the one who saves you. Look up and live.