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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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