Gospel Reading: John 8:21-30 (alternate reading for the Feast of St. Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus: Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24)
21 Again he said to them, "I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come." 22 Then said the Jews, "Will he kill himself, since he says, `Where I am going, you cannot come'?" 23 He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." 25 They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." 27 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. 28 So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." 30 As he spoke thus, many believed in him.
Old Testament Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food." 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses, and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
Meditation: Do you know the healing power of the cross of Jesus Christ? When the people of Israel were afflicted with serpents in the wilderness because of their sin, God instructed Moses: "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8). The bronze serpent points to the cross of Jesus Christ which defeats sin and death and obtains everlasting life for those who believe. The result of Jesus "being lifted up on the cross" and his rising and exaltation to the Father's right hand in heaven, is our "new birth in the Spirit" and adoption as sons and daughters of God. God not only redeems us, but he fills us with his own divine life and power that we might share in his glory. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit that we may have power to be his witnesses and to spread and defend the gospel by word and action, and to never be ashamed of Christ's Cross. Are you ready to witness the truth and joy of the gospel to those around you?
While many believed in Jesus and his message, many others, including the religious leaders, opposed him. Some openly mocked him when he warned them about their sin of unbelief. It's impossible to be indifferent to Jesus' word and his judgments. We are either for him or against him. There is no middle ground or neutral parties. When Jesus spoke about going away he was speaking about his return to his Father and to his glory. His opponents could not follow him because by their continuous disobedience to the word of God and their refusal to accept him, they had shut themselves off from God. Jesus warned them that if they continued to refuse him they would die in their sins. Jesus' words echoed the prophetic warning given to Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 3:18 and 18:18) where God warns his people to heed his word before the time is too late. God gives us time to turn to him and to receive his grace, but that time is right now.
To sin literally means to miss the mark or to be off target. The essence of sin is that it diverts us from God and from our true purpose in life – to know the source of all truth and beauty which is God himself and to be united with God in everlasting joy. When Adam and Eve first sinned, they hid themselves from God (Genesis 3:8-10). That is what sin does; it separates us from the One who is all loving, all-wise, and all-just. Jesus went on to explain that if people could not recognize him in his word, they would have the opportunity to recognize him when he is "lifted up"on the cross of Calvary. Jesus pointed to the atoning sacrifice of his life on the cross as the true source of healing and victory over the sin of the world. The sacrifice of Christ's life on the cross for our sins is the ultimate proof of God's love for us. God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). To fail to recognize Jesus and where he came from is to remain in spiritual darkness; to believe Jesus and his words is to walk in the joy and light of God's truth. There are certain opportunities in life that come and do not return. Each of us is given the opportunity to know and to accept Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior. But that opportunity can be rejected and lost. Life here is limited and short, but how we live it has everlasting consequences. Do you take advantage of the present time to make room for God so that your life will count for eternity?
"Lord Jesus, grant this day, to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and bodies, so that all our thoughts, words and deeds may be according to your Father's law and thus may we be saved and protected through your mighty help."
2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline
your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!
3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace.
16 For the LORD will build up Zion, he will appear in his glory;
17 he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and will not despise their supplication.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height, from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die;
21 that men may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise