Bishop Banda’s Homily, Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent
The desert experience of the people of Israel reminds us of the desert as a place of severity, abandonment and utter helplessness. However, that was the only route to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land. Any other route was not feasible. This journey could have taken at the most eleven days, but it took them forty years to reach the Promised Land. The Israelites got stuck in the wilderness because of their impatience, their complaints on what to eat and drink and spoke ill against God and Moses. As a result God sent fiery serpents and their bite brought death to many.
As much as the people’s complaints were valid and genuine, – however, they forgot the wonders God had done for them. They were no more slaves in Egypt and they were a free people and there were no slave-drivers to torture them. They also forgot God’s providence (bukapekape bwakwa Lesa, uupelela namuchilafi).
Instead of cherishing their freedom, they turned to complaint. Instead of appreciating the wonders of His providence they spoke ill of Him. The fiery serpents were sent to remind them of who they were (mortal men) and who God is (immortal and almighty). So whenever we want to complain about anything, let us blink for a moment on the cross and take stock of the cost to save us. At the same time let us think through the good things – we have received from God in His goodness, what he has done and provided for us.
Let us remember to give thanks and praise to the Lord for the wonders He has done for us. God will shower His blessings on the grateful. A grateful heart realizes that sin brings sorrow and death; that grumbling (ukuinyongonya) is destructive, and that contempt for God’s graciousness provokes God’s anger and judgment. However, healing and restoration is brought through faith by looking at the bronze serpent on the pole. Similarly, when Christ is lifted on the cross He draws all men to Himself attaining salvation to those who believe in Him.
The desert experience teaches us to learn how to totally depend on God. To trust in God, that He who has seen us this far will never let us down. For He is faithful and loving. Even when things seem impossible He makes them possible. He is in control and His time is the best. (Apanga inshila apashaba). We remain in the desert until our sinfulness become detestable and shameful, that we seek repentance and restoration.