Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memorial of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, archbishop of San Salvador. He was killed on March 24, 1980 on the altar. Memory of the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine that took place in Rome in 1944, in which the Nazis killed 335 people.

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Numbers 21, 4-9

They left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt round Edom. On the way the people lost patience.

They spoke against God and against Moses, 'Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the desert? For there is neither food nor water here; we are sick of this meagre diet.'

At this, God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel.

The people came and said to Moses, 'We have sinned by speaking against Yahweh and against you. Intercede for us with Yahweh to save us from these serpents.' Moses interceded for the people,

and Yahweh replied, 'Make a fiery serpent and raise it as a standard. Anyone who is bitten and looks at it will survive.'

Moses then made a serpent out of bronze and raised it as a standard, and anyone who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent survived.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The passage from the book of Numbers reports one of the most critical moments of the journey of the people of Israel in the desert. Prostrate by fatigue, all the Israelites show their displeasure to God and Moses. They come to regret the time of slavery in Egypt: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food"(v.5). Regret for the past arises when a dream fades, when we give up the vision and the project in which God has called us to participate. And then we turn back to ourselves and we allow ourselves to be dominated by pettiness, resignation, nostalgia for the past; laments take precedence over everything and everyone. Then poisonous snakes appear which bite and kill people everywhere. It is not God who sends snakes; we ourselves spread poison in the field and become snakes; our tongues resemble those of the poisonous snakes that kill. How often, unfortunately, among people: between groups, factions and nations, we destroy one another just with words, and we are not even able to dialogue! The awareness of sin leads the Israelites to turn to Moses so that he may intercede with the Lord. And the Lord intervened once again. He made them build a bronze serpent and had them plant it in the camp; whoever looked at it, after having been bitten, would be saved. The desert that had become a place of death because of the poison that human beings spread among one another was transformed into a place of salvation because of the serpent raised on the pole. As we listen to the final words of this biblical passage, we are reminded directly of the Cross that in not many days will be planted on Golgotha, and that we are invited to contemplate and welcome in our hearts. This Lent, the biblical passages that accompany us, day after day, are an effective aid to cleanse our eyes and to turn them to "the one who was pierced" for our salvation