In the first reading, Numbers 21:4-9, the Israelites complain against God and Moses for the hardships they endure on their journey. God punishes them by sending serpents which bite the people, killing many. When the people repent, Moses prays to God on their behalf and God instructs Moses to make a serpent and mount it on a pole. Those who are bitten by a serpent and look at the bronze serpent on the pole will live.
This story immediately made me think of the Rod of Asclepius, the symbol of medicine, which is a serpent wrapped around a staff. But I thought this was of Greek origin – was I mistaken? It turns out that the Rod of Asclepius was indeed attributed to the Greek god Asclepius, who was associated with healing and medicine. To further muddy the waters, according to Wikipedia some commentators have linked the Rod of Asclepius with this Bible reading. More to the point, the message I take from the first reading is that Moses is, in a way, a precursor to Christ as he intercedes with God for the people.
In the Responsorial Psalm, extracted from Psalm 102, the people praise God and ask God not to ignore their pleas.
In the Gospel, John 8:21-30, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their sins and says that He is “not of this world.” He refers to Himself as the “Son of Man” who says and does only what the Father tells Him. John’s Gospel is admittedly difficult to understand and I do not find the link to the first reading as clear as in other liturgies of the Word, except that many came to believe in Him because of the way He spoke.
Lord, be always present to me. Hear the cries of Your people and answer our prayers.
Bill Thompson, Member of the Worshipping Community
First Reading: Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 102:2-3, 16-21
Gospel: John 8:21-30
Daily Scripture readings can be found online at the USCCB website