Bitterness: Is It Poisoning Your Life?

Num 21:4-9 / Phil 2:6-11 / Jn 3:13-17

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today’s reading from the Old Testament book of Numbers finds the poor old Israelites doing yet again what they seem to have done through the whole 40 years of their trek from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were complaining: the diet is boring, this barren landscape is ugly, and we’re sick of manna.

So, the story says, God sent a plague of poisonous serpents which killed many of their number. But was it really the serpents who killed them? Wasn’t it a poison that was already inside them, their abiding bitterness and discontent with life, their cavalier refusal to trust God, who had liberated them from Pharaoh?

Too many of us who call ourselves Christians are walking around with lethal quantities of poison inside us. And just as nature supplies almost infinite varieties of poisons, so do human hearts. Envies, jealousies, grievances cherished sometimes for decades and across generations, racial and ethnic resentments, ideological hatreds of every sort. And nowhere is this latter more visible than within — not between, but within — Christian churches.

All of that bitterness and discontent keeps the Lord at arm’s length and leaves us without peace and without joy. There is only one remedy for it, and that is to give it all to the Lord and keep giving it and giving it to Him and not taking it back, until it is truly gone from our lives.

Then and only then will the peace of Christ for which we have always longed truly be ours.

Peace be with you this day and always.