Daily Reflection
April 11th, 2000
Kathy Kanavy
Institute for Priestly Formation
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Numbers 21:4-9
Psalms 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21
John 8:21-30

The first reading from the Book of Numbers invites us into being with the Israelites (and our own hearts) in the experience of fatigue and discouragement. 
“But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water?  We are disgusted with this wretched food!’”

The Israelites, in this instance, “complained against God and Moses.”  The result, as the story continues, is that the Lord “sent among the people serpents which bit the people so that many of them died.”  Then the people realized their sin and came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you.  Pray the Lord to take the serpents from us.”  The Lord instructs Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover.” 

Of course we can identify with the Israelites’ struggle to be patient in the midst of a long, tedious journey whose end is nowhere in sight.  For you and I, the “journey” might be the suffering of someone we love, or a broken relationship, or seeking employment, or struggling with chronic illness, or pain that we carry from the past.  What Scripture invite us into is to look at what we do “when our patience is worn out” and we are weary from the “burden.” 

The story of the Israelites shows them turning away from God in pride to “blame” God and Moses.  What “bites” them, I would suggest, is the “punishment” of turning in on themselves, shutting God out, and becoming self-reliant.  Here lies death: aloneness and isolation without God.  What turns the situation around centers in their humility to admit the mistake and to ask God to save them.  “Recovery” is found through relying on God’s mercy and healing love.

You and I have our own versions of relying on ourselves.  Sometimes we hold onto subtle attitudes in our hearts that assert that we know what’s best.  We can also hold onto pain in a subtle pride either to justify ourselves or to punish ourselves.  Whatever the attitude in our hearts that holds onto self, Jesus clearly begs us to let Him save us in this Lenten season.  How?  Simply by bringing Him the “burden.”  As we acknowledge and relate the pain to Jesus, He will be eager to console us PRECISELY IN THE STRUGGLE, i.e., to assure us, to strengthen us, and to hold us in love.  Out of this love, any way that we have been alone in our suffering will be illuminated with gentleness, so that He might give us relief and healing.

Listen to the words of God spoken through the prophet Hosea:
“When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son.  The more I called them, the farther they went from me.  …Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms;  I drew them with human cords, with bands of love;  I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks:  Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” 

Hosea 11:1-4
We often fail to see God’s tenderness and evocative heart longing to heal us.  Let us pray for the grace of humility and take time to pray honestly to Him about the burdens on our hearts.  Here He is eager to take them from our shoulders and to offer us His consoling love.
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