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Make Your Own Exodus This Lent

by Michael J. Daley

(A summary of this month's Youth Update)
If you would like to preview a future edition in Youth Update's private online chat room, contact CarolAnn@franciscanmedia.org.

Lent can be described as the Church's big time-out before Easter. You've seen it or done it yourself. In many sports, before any big play, a time-out is called. The players collect themselves, look at their options and then proceed.

During Lent, you have 40 days to slow down, shift gears and make sure you're heading in the right direction. Without this time for reflection, it's easy to lose your way and take a wrong turn.

One guide for your Lenten time-out is the Exodus story. Though it happened well before the time of Jesus, as a Jew, it was on his mind and lips. Prior to his crucifixion and death, he even celebrated a Passover meal with his disciples. Through this meal Jesus told the story of the Israelites' deliverance from slavery in Egypt. He invited his disciples to experience the saving presence of God in their lives then and there, calling them out of the slavery of sin and into the freedom of God's friendship. During this Lenten time-out, you're invited to see the parallels between your life and this story of faith.

1. Who's Your Pharaoh?

The pharaoh enslaved the Jews, even forcing them to make a daily quota of bricks without supplying the raw materials. Slave owners forbade those in their charge to learn how to read, knowing that would work toward their freedom. Who or what is the pharaoh in your life, the one person or thing that places the heaviest burdens on you?

2. Who's Your Moses?

Moses led the Israelites to freedom through the sea and through the desert. Harriet Tubman was nicknamed "Moses" for her work on the Underground Railroad, helping modern slaves to freedom. Who or what has been your Moses, the one who freed you in the moments of captivity?

3. Who Are Women of Influence in Your Life?

The Book of Exodus is not only about two men (Moses and the pharaoh) struggling to gain the upper hand. It is also the story of Hebrew midwives who refused the orders to kill all newborn Hebrew males, of Moses' clever mother, of Pharaoh's daughter, of Moses' sister Miriam. Without them, the Jewish people would not have gained their freedom. Who have been some women in your life who have supported and encouraged you along the way?

4. Where Is Your Burning Bush?

Moses, raised in the court of the pharaoh, still felt a kinship with his people. When he saw an Egyptian slave driver whip a Hebrew slave, he was so outraged that he killed him on the spot. He ran for his life, but was haunted by questions of identity: Who am I? What moves me to act? Why am I as I am? In the desert, he saw an unbelievable sight: a bush engulfed with flames but not disappearing into the fire. In this vision, God revealed a name to Moses: "I am who am." Meeting God helped Moses in turn to know who he was. What has been a defining moment in your life, where you were forced to ask the question: Who am I?

5. Who Forms Your Community of Faith?

Moses was not excited about becoming the leader of the Israelites. He felt he lacked talent for this job. As it turned out, he didn't have to do it alone. He was freed as his people were freed. He experienced the weakness of his followers and they experienced his doubts as well. What role has a faith community played in your life? Has it quenched your thirst or left your mouth parched and wanting more?

There are still more elements to the story of Exodus: the Promised Land, "a place flowing with milk and honey," the forging of a golden calf to be worshiped as an idol. These, too, are probably reflected in your own life—if you're willing to look.

The Exodus story helps you to see your life as a journey, with events that have a purpose and a meaning. This Lent, make the Exodus story your story.

Danell Arnett (14), Lyndsay Carey (15), Michael Grilliot (15), Adam Marchal (17), Jason Richard (17), and Jessica Richard (16), all members of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Parish in Covington, Ohio, reviewed this issue of Youth Update and asked the three questions which follow, with answers by the author.

 

Q.

I know I should respect and read the Bible, but it's difficult. How can I really get something out of it?

A.

Simply put, spend some time with it. As you can see from the Book of Exodus, the Bible is full of wonderful, exciting and relevant stories. But they can't touch your life if you don't put yourself in their presence. I'll be the first to admit that finding—or making—the time to do this is hard. If you need help getting started, talk to someone who makes reading the Bible a prayerful habit. You might get together a group of like-minded friends and start, or join, a teen Bible study group. Perhaps you could set a goal this Lent to read each Sunday's Gospel, asking yourself: How does this speak to me now? Using the new Catholic Youth Bible from St. Mary's Press could make this resolution easier to keep.

Q.

Why did the midwives have to kill all the Hebrew boys? Why is that important to the story of Exodus?

A.

The pharaoh, the king of Egypt, was afraid that the Hebrews were growing too strong in numbers and power, so he commanded the killing of all male Hebrew children. Rather than follow this order, the midwives followed the will of God. The children—Moses included—lived. Otherwise, there would have been no Exodus. This episode expresses the tension that sometimes happens between doing what is legal (the pharaoh's command) and doing what is right (following God's will).

Q.

Why is the land described as flowing with milk and honey? And why would anyone worship a golden calf?

A.

Think of the Israelites' history: years of slavery followed by wandering in the desert. Finally they reached Canaan, a land they could call home. It felt like paradise, and "milk and honey" is their expression for "everything we could ever want." But—their gratitude to God for escaping slavery quickly became "What have you done for me today?" They wanted more—and turned to other powers, symbolized by the golden calf (an idol). You may not have a golden calf, but things you think you absolutely have to have are just as distracting when it comes to maintaining your relationship with God.

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