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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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.


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