Pope in Kazakhstan: ‘This is what God did to the evil in the world: He gave us Jesus’
During his visit to Kazakhstan on September 14, Pope Francis spoke in his sermon about relying on God to resist evil. The cross is a gallows of death, but on this feast day we celebrate the exaltation of the cross of Christ. For on that tree Jesus took upon Himself our sin and the evil of the world, and defeated them with His love. That’s why we celebrate today.
The Word of God that we have heard tells us that. In it (Num. 21.4-9, ed.) the serpents that bite and the serpent that save are oppose to each other. Let’s dwell on these two images for a moment. First, the snakes that bite. They attack the people who have once again fallen into the sin of murmuring. To murmur against God is not only to speak ill and complain about Him; it mean on a deeper level that in the hearts of the Israelites, faith in Him, in His promise, lost.
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Indeed, the people of God are walking in the desert to the promise land and are overcome with fatigue, they can no longer bear the journey (cf. Nm 21:4). They become discouraged, they lose hope, and at some point it is as if they forget the Lord’s promise: those people no longer have the strength to believe that it is He who guides their journey to a rich and fertile land.
It is no accident that when their faith in God run out, the people are bite by snake that kill. They are reminiscent of the first serpent mention in the Bible in the book of Genesis, the tempter who poison the heart of man to make him doubt God. In fact, the devil, precisely in the form of a serpent, deceives Adam and Eve, deceiving them by convincing them that God is not good, but that he is jealous of their freedom and happiness.
And now, in the wilderness, the serpents return, the “venomous serpents” (verse 6); that is, original sin returns: the Israelites doubt God, they do not trust Him, they murmur, they rebel against Him who gave them life, and thus meet their death. This is where the mistrust of the heart leads!
Dear brothers and sisters, this first part of the story asks us to take a closer look at the moments in our personal and collective history when we have lost faith, in the Lord and in each other. How often, discourage and impatient, are we wither in our desert, losing sight of the purpose of the journey!
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Even in this great country there is the desert which, though it is a beautiful landscape, tells us of that weariness, that aridity that we sometimes carry in our hearts. It is the moments of weariness and tribulation, when we no longer have the strength to look up to God.
It is also the situation of personal, ecclesiastical and social life in which we are bitten by the serpent of mistrust, which inject us with the poison of disillusionment and discouragement, of pessimism and resignation, lock us up in our egos and extinguish our enthusiasm.
But in the history of this country there other painful bite: I think of the poisonous snake of violence, of the persecution of atheist, of the sometime arduous road in which the freedom of the people threaten and their dignity compromise.
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Looking up to Him
It is good to cherish the memory of what we have suffer: we must not cut certain thing out of our memory, otherwise we might believe that they are a long-term road and that the path of good map out forever. No, peace is never earn once and for all, but must be conquer every day, as does the coexistence of different ethnic group and religious tradition, integral development and social justice.
And if Kazakhstan wants to grow even more “in brotherhood, dialogue and understanding […] to build bridges of solidarity and cooperation with other peoples, nations and culture” (John Paul II, Address at the Welcoming Ceremony, September 22, 2001), then everyone’s commitment is need. This requires a renewed act of faith in the Lord: looking up, looking at Him, learning of His universal and crucified love.