We stiff-necked people: hearts and ears uncircumcised
The reading for the April 13th daily mass was from the Gospel of John. The passage begins, “Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it wills and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” And ends with, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of God be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
In his homily, Fr. John Farao, focused on Jesus’ last statement. When they left Egypt, Fr. John said, “the Israelites surely did not expect to be gone for forty years. Maybe a long weekend or a couple of weeks, but not forty years.
So the people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we are disgusted with this miserable food. Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.Numbers21-5
The priest recalled the reason that Moses lifted up the serpent: the snakes. Fr. John speaks softly, but he emphasized the word “snakes” almost hissing it as he described their state of mind in the Book of Numbers.
“Do you know the origin of the phrase stiff-necked?” the priest asked.
I did not. And when he explained at first was dumbfounded. But then…Yes, of course! Those who refused to look up died.
Three weeks later I recall the powerful sense of looking in a mirror, at a reflection of us, all 7 billons of us-upon pondering that Gospel reading and the priest’s meditation on it.
How many times do we read the complaints? Throughout Exodus, Deuteronomy and Numbers,
Why did you make us come up from Egypt, to bring us into this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink!”
Despite all the miracles:
- walking through dry land in the miiddle of the sea,
- eating the bread of angels,
- drinking water from a rock,
- seven nations destroyed so that Isreal could inhabit the promised land.
Hence the Lord punishes them, sends deadly snakes everywhere, biting and many people dying…precisely like now.
Suicides, depression, pervasive fear rarely witnessed. We stiff-necked people are carefully nourished by the experts. Those men and women empowered by us to assure that we continue to look down.
Asking the age old question: Is it possible for the Lord to prepare a table in the desert?
Here’s a reminder of the Lord’s reply to Moses’ intercession for the terrified, repentant Israelites: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and put it on a flag pole; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, and looks at it, will live.”
“Stiff-necked originates from refusing to look up…to bend the neck and look up.”
Just like the Israelites, we forget his mercy and permit our faith to grow cold.
Our intellects cast out this loving Father who sent His Only Begotten Son to save the world, not to condemn it. Hearts and ears uncircumcised, refusing to look up.
In a recent post, Are You the Only One Who Does Not Know?, I pondered that strange meeting on the road to Emmaus. Men who had lived with him for three years could not recognize the Lord as he walked and talked beside them.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?
Can any of us understand the power of the human will?
It is the will of man that makes him more like his Creator. In the human will I placed part of My immensity and power, and giving it the place of honor, I constituted it queen of man’s entire being, and the repository of all of his acts….In one instant, it can will a thousand goods and a thousand evils. The will makes man’s thoughts fly up to heaven or to the farthest places deep into the abyss. Man may be prevented from [externally] operating, seeing, or speaking, but he is always capable of doing all of these in his will.
Whatever man does or wants, forms an act that forms an act that remains deposited within his will. Oh how the will can be expanded! How many goods or evils it can contain! This is why, among all things, I desire the will of man, for once I acquire this, I acquire everything- the fortress is conquered!Luisa Piccarreta