Numbers

  

 Chapter 6

22-27

Pope Francis   01.01.19   Angelus  St Peter's Square  Solemnity of Mary Mother of God   Numbers 6: 22-27

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She blesses the journey of every man and every woman in this year that is beginning, and that will be good precisely in the measure in which each one will welcome the goodness of God that Jesus came to bring into the world.

Numbers 6: 22-27 the first reading from the day’s liturgy, gives us the "most ancient blessing" used by the Israelite priests to bless the people: "The LORD bless you and keep you. The LORD let His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The LORD turn His face to you and give you peace."

In the Bible, "the name represents the very reality that is being invoked," so that in this blessing, the invocation of the name of God – "LORD" – means offering God’s "beneficial strength" to those who receive the blessing.

In mentioning the "face" of the Lord, the priest asks God to grant His mercy and peace to those being blessed. The "face" of God represents His glory, which no man can look upon and live. But although God’s glory, which is "all Love" remains inaccessible in this life, the grace of Love shines upon and illuminates every creature, especially the men and women in whom it is most fully reflected.

And this, brings us back to the image of Mary, showing us her Son, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. "He is the Blessing for every person and for the whole human family." "He is the outpouring of grace, of mercy, and of peace.

This is why Pope St Paul VI determined that the World Day of Peace should be celebrated on January first, the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. The theme of this year’s observance is "Good politics at the service of peace." But, we do not think that politics should be reserved only to political leaders: everyone is responsible for the life of the ‘city,’ for the common good; and even politics is good in the measure in which each one does his or her part ‘in the service of peace’.

  

 Chapter 21

4B-9

 

It seems that the protagonist of today’s readings is the serpent, and there is a message here. Yes, there is a profound prophecy in this presentation of the serpent, which was the first animal to be presented to man, the first that the Bible mentions and defines as the smartest of the wild animals God created. The serpent’s figure is not beautiful, it always incites fear. Even if the snake’s skin is beautiful, the fact remains that the snake’s behaviour is scary.

The Book of Genesis describes the serpent as ‘the most cunning’, but also that he is a charmer that has the ability to fascinate, to charm you. Moreover, he is a liar, he is jealous; it is because of the devil’s envy — the serpent’s envy — that sin entered the world. He has this ability to ruin us with seduction: he promises you many things, but when the time comes to pay you he pays badly, he is an evil payer. However, the serpent has this ability to seduce and to charm. Paul, for example, was angry with the Christians in Galatia who gave him much to do, and he said to them, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? You who were called to freedom, who has bewitched you?”. It was the serpent himself who corrupted them and this was nothing new: the people of Israel were conscious of it.

Numbers (21:4-9): to save them from the serpent’s venom, the Lord told Moses to make a bronze serpent, and that whoever looked at that serpent would be saved. This is an illustration, a prophecy, and a promise. It is a promise that is not easy to understand. Today’s Gospel (Jn 3:13-17) tells us that Jesus himself explained Moses’ act a bit further to Nicodemus: that just as he had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. The bronze serpent was a figure of Jesus raised up on the Cross.

For what reason would the Lord choose this bad, ugly figure? It was simply because Jesus came to take all our sins upon himself, becoming the greatest sinner without having ever committed a sin. This is why Paul tells us that Jesus became sin for us. Using this figure, then, Christ became a serpent. It’s an ugly figure!” But He really did become sin to save us. This is the message in today’s Liturgy. This is precisely Jesus’ path: God became man and bore his sin.

In the Second Reading from the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11), Paul explains this mystery, it was done out of love: Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not retain any privilege of being as God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men; he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.  Jesus emptied himself: he became sin for us, he who knew no sin. This, therefore, is the mystery, and we can say that he became like a serpent, so to speak, which is ugly and disgusting.

There are many beautiful paintings which may help us to contemplate Jesus on the cross. But the reality of it was very different: he was completely torn and bloodied by our sins. Moreover, this is the way that he has taken in order to defeat the serpent in his field. Therefore,  we ought to always look at Jesus’ cross, not at those well-painted artistic crosses, but instead at the reality of what the cross was at that time. Look at his path, recalling that he emptied himself and lowered himself in order to save us.

This is also the Christian’s path. Indeed, if a Christian wants to make progress on the path of the Christian life, he must lower himself, as Jesus lowered himself: this is the path of humility, which means bringing humiliations upon yourself, as Jesus did. This is precisely the message given to us in today’s liturgy on this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Let us ask that the Lord give us the grace that we ask of Our Lady at the foot of the Cross: the grace to cry, to cry out of love, to cry out of gratitude, because our God loved us so much that he sent his Son to lower himself and allow himself to be crushed in order to save us.


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We must not be afraid to contemplate the cross as a moment of defeat, of failure. When Paul reflects on the mystery of Jesus Christ, he says some powerful things. He tells us that Jesus emptied himself, annihilated himself, was made sin to the end and took all our sins upon himself, all the sins of the world: he was a ‘rag’, a condemned man. Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness, our moments of defeat. But the cross is also a sign of victory for us Christians.

The Book of Numbers tells of the moment during the Exodus when the people who complained “were punished by serpents”. This, refers to the ancient serpent,
Satan, the “Great Accuser”. But, the Lord told Moses that the serpent that brought death would be raised and would bring salvation. This  is a prophecy. In fact, having been made sin, Jesus defeated the author of sin, he defeated the serpent. And Satan, was so happy on Good Friday that he did not notice the great trap of history in which he was to fall.

As the Fathers of the Church say, Satan saw Jesus in such a bad state, and like a hungry fish that goes after the bait attached to the hook, he swallowed Him. But in that moment, he also swallowed His divinity because that was the bait attached to the hook. At that moment,  Satan was destroyed forever. He has no strength. In that moment the cross became a sign of victory.

Our victory is the cross of Jesus, victory over our enemy, the ancient serpent, the Great Accuser. We have been saved by the cross, by the fact that Jesus chose to sink to the very lowest point, but with the power of divinity.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself. Jesus was lifted up and Satan was destroyed. We must be attracted to the cross of Jesus: we must look at it because it gives us the strength to go forward. And the ancient serpent that was destroyed still barks, still threatens but, as the Fathers of the Church say, he is a chained dog: do not approach him and he will not bite you; but if you try to caress him because you attracted to him as if he were a puppy, prepare yourself, he will destroy you.

Our life goes on, with Christ victorious and risen, and who sends us the Holy Spirit; but also with that chained dog,
the devil, whom I must not draw close to because he will bite me.

The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious.


Pope Francis   09.04.19   Holy Mass, Santa Marta       Numbers 21: 4-9
Pope Francis 09.04.19 Complaining

At times Christians prefer failure, leaving room for complaint and dissatisfaction, a perfect terrain for the devil in which to sow his seeds.

According to the Reading, the people of God could not bear the journey: their enthusiasm and
hope as they escaped slavery in Egypt gradually faded, their patience wore out, and they began muttering and complaining to God: “Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in this desert?”

The spirit of tiredness takes away our hope. Tiredness is selective: it always causes us to see the negative in the moment we are living, and forget the good things we have received.

When we feel desolated and cannot bear
the journey, we seek refuge either in idols or in complaint... This spirit of fatigue leads us Christians to be dissatisfied and everything goes wrong… Jesus himself taught us this when he said we are like children playing games when we are overcome by this spirit of dissatisfaction.
Some Christians give in to failure without realizing that this creates the perfect terrain for the devil.

They are afraid of consolation, afraid of hope, afraid of the Lord’s caress.

This is the life of many Christians: They live complaining, they live criticizing, they mutter and are unsatisfied.

The people of God could not bear the journey. We Christians often can't bear
the journey. We prefer failure, that is to say desolation.

It is the desolation of the serpent: the ancient serpent, that of the Garden of Eden. Here it is a symbol of that same serpent that seduced Eve. It is a way of showing the serpent inside that always bites in times of desolation.

Those who spend their lives complaining are those who prefer failure, who bear to hope, of those who could not bear the resurrection of Jesus.

Let us Christians ask the Lord to free us from this disease.

May the Lord always give us hope for the future and the strength to keep going
.