In our second reading Saint Paul explains why we remember the Exodus from Egypt. This is the story of how Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and into freedom. It also the story that manifests the Israelites lack of trust in God. Paul reminds us that after Moses freed the Israelites from Egypt, God gave them water during the journey and gave them food when they were hungry. And yet, after being set free, given water and food, the Israelites grumbled and complained against God. And so, Saint Paul warns us, Do not grumble as some of them did. I think it is important for us to call to mind the specific moments where the Israelites lacked confidence and trust in God… If we read and reflect on these words with humility, we will see that we are not that different from the Israelites.
Now Pharaoh was near when the Israelites looked up and saw that the Egyptians had set out after them. Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? Far better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. ~ Exodus 14:12. We know what happens, God protects them and uses the Red Sea to free the Israelites from the Egyptians.
Aren’t we just like them?!? Don’t we often prefer the comfort of our own sinfulness rather than our freedom? For example, consider when we are angry with someone, and are challenged to offer them love and forgiveness. How often do we prefer to remain angry, to continue to complain about “those people” rather than seek to truly be free from anger? When we feel that someone is trying to take us away from our anger, I think many of us have said similar words… Far better for me to be angry than to offer forgiveness to that person… But God wants to set us free…
Here’s another example, Then Moses led Israel forward from the Red Sea, and they marched out to the wilderness of Shur. After traveling for three days through the wilderness without finding water, they arrived at Marah, where they could not drink its water, because it was too bitter. Hence this place was called Marah. As the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ he cried out to the LORD, who pointed out to him a piece of wood. When he threw it into the water, the water became fresh. Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water. ~ Exodus 15: 23-25
Aren’t we just like them?!? The Israelites are struggling with patience, endurance and trust. How often do we pray and pray for something, and then complain that God is not listening to us; only to have our prayers answered in a way we never expected? We are reminded here that prayer is the wellspring that connects us to God, and gives us the grace to hope and endure even when it seems that God is not listening.
Here in the wilderness the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!’ … I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them: In the evening twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, and then you will know that I, the LORD, am your God.~ Exodus 16: 2-3, 12
Aren’t we just like them?!? What’s amazing here is that the Israelites use their freedom from Egypt as an opportunity to blame God. The tendency here is that can be so focussed on present day struggles that we wish God had done nothing in the first place! I think about divorce. Often times I’ll hear from people, why did God even put that person in my life if he knew it was going to end this way? But this mentality lacks awareness that God is still taking care of us…
When the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for that man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him. ~ Exodus 32:1
Aren’t we just like them?!? It’s almost as if this moment was the final straw for the Israelites… God you are taking too long. We give up. We are worshiping something else. The obvious way this happens today is when people literally do give up on God and leave their faith. But it happens in subtle ways too… When we struggle with sin, or anxiety, or loneliness… and we think that God will never truly be there, so we turn to other things. We thin that sports, pleasure, or money, or sin will fill the void that only God can…
Friends, God has freed us from the bondage of sin by Baptism just as he freed the Israelites from the power of the Egyptians. And we are not unlike the Israelites… We too, continue to fall back into old habits of behavior. Lent is a time for us to struggle to leave Egypt again. Lent is a time to recommit ourselves to our God. As we go through out our week, let us ask God for his help to leave Egypt behind again this Lenten season.
In Christ’s Love and Friendship,