Homily for fourth Sunday of Lent B

Jesus said that “the Son of man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. The serpent was lifted up for a purpose; it was lifted that the people might be healed. Yes, the people sinned against God, they spoke against God and against Moses out of frustration. Their journey to the promised land was probably taking too long for them; it was becoming tiring, frustrating, with so many battles to be fought, yet no food no water. They spoke against God and Moses, and for their punishment God sent fiery serpents among the people, they were bitten by these serpents. They cried to God for mercy and God relented and ordered Moses to make a fiery serpent and raise it on a pole. Let he who is bitten by serpent look at the fiery serpent on a pole and be healed. The fiery serpent was raised for their healing. And in our gospel this morning, Jesus said, just as that fiery serpent was raised, so also will he be raised.

Like the people of Israel, we all are on a journey; a journey to prosperity, to good health, to a better relationship, to love, forgiveness, happiness and the list can go on and on to include eternal life. Sometimes this journey appears to be too long, difficult, frustrating and unending. Like the people of Israel we have reacted in so many ways, we have spoken against God, against the Church and abandoned his ways in search for solutions to the challenges of life. These things provokes the anger of God. Our first reading today reminds us of how like the heads of the priesthood and all the people, we all have added infidelity to infidelity, copying all the shameful practices of the nations and defiling the Temple that the Lord has consecrated We have sinned against God and deserve condemnation and death. But this condemnation and death is averted by God’s mercy and love for those who believe and trust in God. St. Paul talks about this mercy in our second reading, he said that God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ.

Our gospel reading today also talks about this mercy and how God saved us from condemnation and death. God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved (Jn. 3:17). The Son of God was raised like the serpent on a pole as he said he would for our healing and for our salvation.serpent2

The people of Israel were only to look at the fiery serpent and be healed, though it wasn’t the fiery serpent that healed them but God did. For us, the Son of God was raised on a rugged cross and we are not only to look but believe and be saved. This lack of trust in God is becoming a big problem amongst Christians today, so many are no longer patient enough to look at the cross and believe in its power, many can no longer hold unto to the victory of Jesus on the cross, and some now even see the cross as just image or idle. We must look back at the people of Israel, though they spoke against God they repented and enjoyed the mercy of God. They continued to look at the fiery serpent through which the healing power of God reached them. Jesus said that just as that serpent was raised so also he will be raised and he was indeed raised on the cross for us. Let us not therefore turn our eyes and faith away from the power of the cross, let us not turn our eyes and faith from the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. He was raised so that we may be raised above our weaknesses. As we continue our Lenten observance, let us continually hold onto the mercy of God.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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