How can you spot a copper snake?




The snake that kills and the snake that saves

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


from: L'Osservatore Romano, weekly edition in German, No. 12/13, March 25th 2016


If we are to understand the "story of our salvation" we must look to the cross. Pope Francis' sermon at Holy Mass on the morning of March 15 revolved around the "mystery" of the suffering and death of Jesus, who "became sin" for the salvation of men. At the center of the Pope's thoughts was the picture of the snake taken from the readings of the day, which contained a "message".

The snake "is the first animal in the book genesis is mentioned, "said the Pope, and she is called the" cleverest "animal. Again, plunge this beast into the Bible in the book Numbers (21: 4-9) from which the first reading was taken. There it is reported how the people rebelled against God and Moses in the desert: “The Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people. They bit the people and many Israelites died. "Then the people were converted, asked for forgiveness, and God said to Moses:" Make yourself a snake and hang it on a flagpole! Anyone who is bitten will live to look at them. "Francis commented," This is strange: the Lord does not let the snakes die, He lets them go on. But if one of them bites a person, let him look at the copper snake and he will be healed. ”So the snake is hung on a pole in order to gain salvation.

The Pope then referred to the Gospel of the day (Joh 8: 21-30), in which Jesus discusses with the scribes and tells them very clearly: “If you do not believe that it is me, you will die in your sins. When you have exalted the Son of Man, you will know that it is I. "Francis explained," 'I am' is the name of God. When Moses asked God: If the people want to know who sent me, if they asked: Who is sending you to set us free? What's his name - ›I am.‹ «And then:» Exalt the Son of Man! Like the serpent ... "A few chapters before, Jesus" said the same thing to the scribes: "As Moses exalted the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be exalted, so that everyone who believes in him may be saved." »Is a symbol for sin: the snake that kills. But a snake saves. And that is the mystery of Christ, ”continued the Pope.

St. Paul too "speaks about this mystery and says that Jesus emptied himself, humbled himself in order to save us". And the apostle used an even more impressive phrase: “He has become sin for us. "If one wanted to use the biblical symbol, one could say:" He has become a serpent. "That is" the prophetic message of the readings of the day, "emphasized the Pope:" The Son of Man who, like a serpent - has become sin - is raised to save us. "

We should therefore "look to the crucified Christ and to this mystery: a God who has completely emptied himself from his divinity in order to save us". Francis asked: "Who is this serpent that Jesus takes upon himself to defeat it?" The answer is in the book of the epiphany of St. John where the word reappears. Incidentally, in the Bible the snake is "the animal that is mentioned first and perhaps also last". The last book of the Bible states that "the old serpent called the Devil or Satan" has been defeated. Sin is therefore "the work of Satan, and Jesus defeats Satan" by becoming sin "". From the cross he "exalts us all". Therefore, “the cross is not an ornament, not a work of art with many precious stones, as you can sometimes see. The cross is the secret of the 'humiliation' of God out of love. "

The snake, continues Francis, "prophesies salvation in the desert": because "it is exalted and everyone who looks at it is healed". But this salvation was not "brought about with a magic wand by a god who set things right in this way." Rather, salvation was worked "through the suffering of the Son of Man, through the suffering of Jesus Christ". A suffering that was so great that Jesus asked the Father: "Father, please, if possible, I do not want to drink this cup." Here "fear" becomes clear, which is, however, accompanied by the words: "But your will be done."

This is "the story of our redemption, the story of God's love," emphasized the Pope. And "if we want to get to know the love of God, then we should look to the cross". There we met »a tortured, killed person who is God, 'emptied of his divinity', defiled, 'has become sin'«. In conclusion, Francis asked: "May the Lord grant us the grace to understand this mystery a little better."