Monday, April 02, 2007

Leaving Egypt Forever

Let's have a show of hands...

Who likes reading/ discussing/ hearing about the war in Iraq every day? Suicide bombers? Sitting back with the paper and discovering that people are still being victimized and horribly victimizing others? Who would enjoy hearing another tale about the wealthy and powerful who are still trying to get wealthier and more powerful-er... at the expense of the poor?

Anyone care for more violence on television before 8pm? Who believes we need another show that glorifies lust in the place of love, promiscuity over devotion, and marital infidelity as opposed to a lasting faithfulness?

No? You're done with this scene? You've had enough? Me too....

If it feels like 400 years of slavery to you, slopping through the mud of the media with this fallen nature of ours and you'd like to break away from sin to a Promised Land and hear some good news for a change, then take courage and lift up your heads. Change is a'comin'. But it will take work, and these 40 days of Lent were just the beginning...

The Early Church Fathers (these guys were the Catholic All-Stars) always saw Egypt as a type or shadow of our slavery to sin... Moses was a type of Jesus, and as Moses led the People out of Egypt, so Jesus leads us out of our addiction to self and selfishness. Finally, we can enter into the holiness (a.k.a. wholeness) of God and our true destiny! Real freedom, hope, joy, justice! Woohoo! When we’ve made this solid turn towards Him - metanoia, a.k.a. conversion - and followed, then we can experience that sweet honeymoon the saints talked about. But we have to make the turn. We have to step out in faith. We've got to leave the slavery of Egypt.

If we're committed to this work of getting out of Egypt, then we'll need to buck up and make it past the honeymoon to where the real journey begins. We have to walk through the desert for an undetermined period of time with no clear knowledge of where we'll rest or what we'll eat. Now won't that be fun?

Ah, but this desert of Lent has been the key. This is our detox time, where the poison is worked out of our systems, and we sweat out sin in our own personal Gethsemanes. This is the gymnasium of the soul and of the body. Then just when we think we've hit the Wall and can go no further, we'll look back and see Egypt coming after us (and guess who Pharaoh is a type of, by the way?). It's at this point that we'll hear Jesus say the craziest thing in the world, the last thing we think anyone should say when the chariots and charioteers are barrelling down at us and there seems to be no escape route for us on the road to holiness.

"Stand still."

Stand still? No way... We feel the pursuit of sin. The ground is trembling. I can't do this. It’s the residual effect of our selfishness... called concupiscence. This is the whisper of the preciousss... and the Gollum in all of us doesn't want to let go.

"In great fright they cried out to the LORD. And they complained to Moses, "Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you do this to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, 'Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians'? Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.""

Did you ever look back and think "Man, those Israelites were whiners!" But WE are their spiritual children! When the water gets choppy, and the winds blow, don't we often take our eyes off of the prize, like St. Peter in his walk on the water? We can chicken out too! But it's in this moment especially, when all the world seems to be falling apart, that we must look to Jesus.

"But Moses answered the people, "Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today. These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still."

Keep still.... This was the dying wish of Pope John Paul II for the Church. This was his last piece of spiritual advice to the world before he went home to the Father's House. He said "Ours is a time of continual movement which often leads to restlessness, with the risk of "doing for the sake of doing". We must resist this temptation by trying "to be" before trying "to do". (Novo)

Hmmm.... And his secret for our wholeness in the days to come? What to do when we finally get the courage to be still?

"To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the “program” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization.
" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

Look at Him. Even as Pontius Pilate cries out this Good Friday "Ecce homo!" Then, especially then, in stillness let us "Behold the Man." Our leader and the perfecter of our faith. He can take us from death to life, through the waters of a Red Sea that pours from His sacred wounds. All for love, all for us... to free us from the captivity that has held us captive for so long! What will happen if we can do this? If we can look away from ourselves, our worries, our fears, and just look up, look and see and drink in the vision of Jesus?

"Ecce homo! Behold the Man!"

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