Why a bronze snake? Was it meant to be magic?
A few chapters back in Number 11:2, the complaining Israelites felt God’s fury as God ensnared fire on the outskirts of their camp. Moses interceded and God removed the threat. God doesn’t follow through in the same manner here in Number 21:4-9.
He makes them look at the very thing that bit with excruciating pain, mounted on a pole to be healed. This was a test of faith. All of us are free to accept or reject the means God has provided and will live or die with the consequences. He orders Moses to mount a snake, so that God’s own people confront the source of their trouble, which they brought upon themselves. In courageously staring at that trouble, one finds trust in God again.
At times in our life, we may approach God like a magician. We go to him asking him to deliver us from our problems, to take away the pain, to give us happy endings in life. If this is all God ever did for us, he would fall short of his fatherhood.
We have to remember God’s fatherhood. God is with us and wants us to stare down those things we have brought upon ourselves so that we can grow in holiness and faith. God does this through the sacraments.
The Sacrament of the Sick is a sacrament that does not take away our cancer or illness. Rather, it gives us courage to face suffering with Jesus on his cross. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is not about admitting how dirty and evil we are, but it is about owning up to our own faults knowing God’s mercy is bigger than our sins.
The crucifix, mounted in every Catholic Church as the centerpiece and focal point of the Eucharistic celebration, allows us to see God lifted on his throne facing death and trouble with holy courage. Look to the cross lifted high for it is there that Christ teaches us how to be champions of faith.