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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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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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