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Bible Reflections View Comments

Where Is Our Egypt?
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
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In the Hebrew Scriptures, Egypt is a powerful symbol for bondage and oppression. We miss some of this because we’ve come to think of Egypt as the land of King Tut and the great archaeological discoveries of the last two centuries. We see it as a great ancient civilization, a place of knowledge and power. But the Hebrew people paid a great price for their sojourn in Egypt, away from the Promised Land. Forced there by famine and initially favored by the pharaoh, they descended into slavery. Even once they were freed from that slavery, their long trip through the desert made them nostalgic for what they saw as a comfortable life, forgetting in their freedom the oppression that they had known.

In today’s first reading, Moses is fleeing from a rather checkered past in Egypt. He’s on the run from a murder charge. He gave up his comfortable life in the palace when he chose to side with the oppressed Hebrew slaves. That action seems to have caught God’s attention. Moses encounters the Lord in the midst of a burning bush. He’s first curious about the phenomenon, then awed by the presence of God. But in the midst of it all, he comes close enough to hear what God is asking. His response isn’t immediate. He asks questions. He hesitates. But in the end he agrees to what God is asking.

God tells Moses that he is being sent by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This title summarizes the whole history of the Hebrew covenant to that point. Moses, though raised in the Egyptian court, is one of the chosen people, the people of the covenant. We don’t know how much he knew of his heritage. But his birthright defines who he is and determines his destiny. In the same way, our lives are shaped by the fact that we are baptized into the life of Christ. That first yes to God, whether our parents said it for us or whether we say it ourselves, sets us on a path into the future God has planned for us.

Sometimes, like Moses, we’re called to return to places where we once lived in comfort and raise questions about the status quo. At other times, like the Hebrews embarking on their journey back to the Promised Land, we’re called to turn our backs on that stifling status quo and head toward a new adventure.

Because of the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord heard the cry of his people, held in bondage and oppressed by the Egyptians. He still hears the cry of his people, held in bondage and oppressed by any of those things that keep us from living freely—fear, addiction, depression, illness, sin.

Spend some time thinking about those things that have kept you from being fully free in your life. Where is your Egypt? Is it a place of too much comfort or too much oppression? Find a symbol of that bondage and keep it someplace where you can reflect on it during the rest of Lent. Think about how Easter might bring you freedom. The journey of Lent can seem like a trackless wasteland at times, but the people of God have always found their most direct encounters with God in those times and places when everything seemed bleak and barren, when all the creature comforts are stripped away. The demand of the desert is to stand before the burning insistence of God and believe that he has heard our cry. In that belief, we will come to the Promised Land.


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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Blessed Junipero Serra
This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

Happy Birthday
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Sts. Peter and Paul
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Wedding
Help the bride and groom see their love as a mirror of God’s love.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
God gave Mary to us as a help in our quest for holiness.




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