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TRINITY SUNDAY, BIBLE READING I (EXODUS 34:4-6, 8-9)

LORD, LORD, A GOD OF TENDERNESS AND COMPASSION.

With the two tablets of stone in his hands, Moses went up the mountain of Sinai in the early morning as the Lord had commanded him. And the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

He called on the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “Lord, Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.” And Moses bowed down to the ground at once and worshipped. “I have indeed won your favour, Lord,” he said “let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

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MAUNDY THURSDAY, BIBLE READING I (EXODUS 12:1-8, 11-14)

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: “This month is to be the first of all the others for you. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, ‘On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons required. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.

That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord!

The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.'”

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: THE LAST SUPPER

WHY WAS JESUS CHRIST TO BE ARRESTED AT NIGHT, RATHER THAN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT?

“It was Wednesday, the second day before the Feast of the Passover. The enemies of Jesus were anxious to defeat Him. Having failed to discredit Him, they were now determined to put Him to death. Even though Jesus Himself had refused to accept the role of a political Messias who would lead the people in revolt against the Roman authority, the Pharisees and Scribes were apprehensive that He might stir up such a revolt during the eight days of the Paschal Feast. If He did, then the wrath of Pilate, the Roman Procurator, would direct the power of the Roman soldiery against Jerusalem. To forestall this possibility, they felt, it was necessary to put Jesus to death. But they were also afraid of the people. Many of them had manifested a belief in Jesus. If Jesus was arrested publicly, the people might stir up such a tumult as would induce Pilate to act. How could they take Jesus by stealth?

STABBED IN THE BACK BY ONE OF HIS CLOSEST FRIENDS

Their problem was solved for them by the treachery of Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve Apostles. Each day, after teaching in the Temple, Jesus withdrew at night either to Bethany or to the Mount of Olives. Judas undertook to inform the enemies of His whereabouts, so that they might take Him secretly, without causing any public tumultuous demonstration.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ REAL MOTIVE OF HIS BETRAYAL?

The action of Judas is the most infamous betrayal in all human history. The opinions of men on the character and action of Judas have varied with their attitude toward Jesus Himself. To some, who reject Jesus as the Messias of God, Judas appears as a follower of the Pharisees. The strength of the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus finally convinced Judas that Jesus was a seducer of the people, a man who would lead the people away from true Judaism. In betraying Jesus Judas would be doing a service to the people and to God. The nobility and purity of this motive, however, are somewhat discoloured by the willingness of Judas to accept thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

A REVOLUTIONARY?

Others would like to think that the betrayal was simply a stratagem adopted by Judas to force Jesus to manifest His power and inaugurate the political revolution which Judas desired. Since the Apostles, like the people generally, still looked for political liberation, the actions of Judas, in such a case, would be stripped of their sickening appearance. This is not, perhaps, impossible. But once again the avaricious spirit of Judas and his acceptance of money to betray His Master detract also from the sincerity of his motive.

NO DOUBTS ABOUT HIS PART IN THE EVENTS

On the other hand the one thing clear in the Gospel story is that Judas, who was avaricious, did accept money to betray Jesus. St Matthew states that it was Judas who first mentioned money, saying to the chief priests, ‘What are you willing to give me, and I will deliver him to you?’ (Matthew 26:15).

THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE WILL IN HISTORY

Probably, then, Judas was moved to his action both by disappointment at the refusal of Jesus to become a political Messias and by a love of money.
The fall of Judas is, however, a striking instance of God’s way of dealing with men and the importance of free will in history. God knows that Judas will betray his Master. Yet Jesus chooses Judas as one of the favoured twelve Apostles. This means that, at least at the beginning, Judas was a man of some good will. He could have served his Master faithfully. He could have overcome his own greed for money and power. Jesus, the Son of God, gave him the chance to achieve great spiritual glory. But neither Jesus nor His Father in heaven would force Judas to remain faithful. It was for Judas himself to impress upon history his own likeness as a man of great loyalty or a man of ignominious betrayal.

THE EMPTINESS OF HUMAN REBELLION AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD

The betrayal by Judas is also an instance of the emptiness of human rebellion against the will of God. It was not God’s will that Judas should be unfaithful. ‘Woe to that man by whom he will be betrayed’ (Luke 22:22). But yet, the betrayal will be used by God to accomplish His plan for the salvation of mankind. ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes his way, as it has been determined’ (Luke 22:22a).

WHY THURSDAY, NOT FRIDAY?

On the next day, Thursday, Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Feast at Jerusalem. From St John’s Gospel it would appear that the Sadducees were going to celebrate the Paschal Feast on Friday night that year. The intention of Jesus to celebrate it on Thursday night might be explained by the fact that Galileans, present at the feast, would celebrate it on Thursday in order not to defile the Sabbath, which would begin on Friday evening.

THE HISTORY

On Thursday evening Jesus and His disciples entered Jerusalem and went to the upper room of a house (probably the house of a friend of Jesus) to celebrate Passover. Now the Passover meal was a remembrance of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. It was therefore a joyous feast. The joy of the feast was symbolised by the drinking of four cups of wine and the eating of the Paschal lamb. The feast began with the blessing of the first cup of wine. After this bitter herbs were eaten after being dipped in a sauce composed of nuts, fruit and vinegar. The bitter herbs were a remembrance of the bitter oppression which the Chosen People suffered under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread eaten with the meal was a reminder of the haste with which the Jews had had to depart from Egypt; they had not time to bake leavened bread. The sacrifice of a lamb and the eating of it recalled that the blood of lambs, smeared on the door-posts, had caused the angel of death to ‘pass over’ the houses of the Israelites without bringing death to their firstborn, whereas it had passed through the houses of the Egyptians, bringing death to their firstborn. The entire feast celebrated then the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression and from death.

PASSOVER CEREMONIES

After the eating of the herbs the Paschal lamb was brought to the table and the head of the family recalled to all the participants in the feast the deliverance of the Chosen People from Egypt. The second cup of wine was then drunk and the lamb was eaten. Then the third cup was drunk and an act of thanksgiving offered to God. This was followed by the drinking of the fourth cup and the singing of the Hallel, which was composed of Psalms CXIII, 8-18, CXIV-CXVII.

THIS WAS NOT SIMPLY AN ORDINARY PASSOVER MEAL

It was at such a Passover meal that Jesus ate with His Apostles for the last time before His death. Yet it was not simply an ordinary Paschal meal, for Jesus was soon to die for men and this last Passover of Jesus on earth was also the beginning of a new sacrifice which would replace the old Passover.

THE DEATH OF JESUS WILL INSTITUTE THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus began the Passover by saying to the Apostles, ‘I have greatly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you that I will eat of it no more, until it has been fulfilled in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 22:15-16). Jesus alludes to His own coming suffering and death. The old Paschal sacrifice of a lamb heralded the deliverance of the Chosen People from slavery and death. The passion and death of Jesus will deliver the human race from the slavery of sin and eternal death. The death of Jesus will institute the Kingdom of God.

THE APOSTLES STILL LACKED UNDERSTANDING OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Then Jesus blessed the first cup of wine and said to them, ‘Take this and share it among you; for I say to you that I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God comes’ (Luke 22:17-18). Once again Jesus refers to His own approaching death which will establish the Kingdom of God among men.

This reference to the Kingdom of God excited the Apostles and they began to dispute with one another as to which one would be greatest in the kingdom. To us who know the great solemnity of the moment it is somewhat surprising to find the Apostles disputing about so vainglorious a matter at this time. But the Apostles were still worldly-minded and lacking in understanding of the basically spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus at once moved to enlighten them. ‘The kings of the Gentiles,’ He said to them, ‘lord it over them, and they who exercise authority over them are called Benefactors. But not so with you. On the contrary, let him who is great among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant. For which is the greater, he who reclines at table, or he who serves? Is it not he who reclines? But I am in your midst as he who serves. But you are they who have continued me in my trials’ (Luke 22:25-28).

THE MEANING OF THE WASHING OF THE FEET

Then Jesus rose from the supper table and girded Himself with a towel. He poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of His Apostles. Simon Peter at first refused to let Jesus do this for him. Jesus said to him. ‘What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter’ (John 13:7). Peter replied, ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered, ‘If I do not wash thee, thou shalt have no part with me’ (John 13:8). Peter then allowed Jesus to wash his feet.

After Jesus had washed the feet of all the Apostles He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If, therefore, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed shall you be if you do them. I do not speak of you all. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,

‘He who eats bread with me has lifted
up his heel against me.’

I tell you now before it comes to pass, that when it has come to pass you may believe that I am he. Amen, amen, I say to you, he who receives anyone I send, receives me; and he who receives me, receives him who sent me’ (John 13:12-20).

By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus, Who was the Lord and Master of the Apostles, sought to teach them the lesson of humility. What makes the lesson even more impressive is the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot, even though He knew that Judas was about to betray Him.

WHO IS IT?

Then, while they were eating, Jesus said to them, ‘Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me’ (Mark 14:18).

The Apostles began to wonder which one it might be. Peter asked John who it might be. John asked Jesus. Jesus replied to him, ‘It is he to whom I shall dip the bread, and give it to him’ (John 13:26).

Jesus then dipped bread and gave it to Judas. Then He said to Judas, ‘What thou dost, do quickly’ (John 13:27). Judas departed to betray Jesus. None of the others, except perhaps John and Peter, understood what was taking place. Some thought that Judas was going to execute some errand for Jesus.

‘THIS IS MY BODY’

After the departure of Judas the paschal lamb was brought to the table and the second cup of wine was served. Then Jesus took bread in His hands, blessed it, broke it and gave it to the Apostles, saying, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ Then He took a cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:27-28).

AT THIS POINT JESUS HAD DEPARTED FROM THE USUAL PASSOVER CEREMONIAL

This was the most solemn act of the Last Supper. It was not simply a usual part of a Passover meal. At this point Jesus departed from the usual Passover ceremonial. Jesus had already promised to give His followers His own Body to eat and His own Blood to drink. Now He fulfils this promise. At His words bread really becomes His Body and wine really becomes His Blood. Moreover the Body and Blood which Jesus thus offers the Apostles are the Body and Blood which will be separated in death on the Cross at Calvary. This is the Body which shall be given for men and the Blood which shall be shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is offering His Body and Blood, His life as a sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind. In so doing He is making a new covenant, a new contract between men and God: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant.’ It was customary among the peoples of the Middle East to seal a covenant in blood. Jesus is now sealing a new covenant between God and man by His own Blood shed for the forgiveness of the sins of all men.

‘DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME’

In addition, this is not a rite to be performed just this once. Jesus intends that this sacrificial offering of His Blood shall continue until the final establishment of His kingdom at the end of time. ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ He says. And St Paul tells us, ‘For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink this chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he comes.’ St Paul referring, of course, to the second coming of Jesus at the end of time to judge all men and institute the eternal Kingdom of God.

THE NEW COVENANT

By telling the Apostles to repeat His own actions in turning bread into His Body and wine into His Blood and to offer this Body and Blood to God as a sacrifice, Jesus made the Apostles priests, empowered by Him to offer the sacrifice of His Body and Blood, and empowered to pass on this tremendous gift to those who would succeed them in the Kingdom of God on earth.

Jesus blesses, or consecrates, the bread and the wine separately. Thus He symbolises by this ritual and mystical separation of His Body and Blood the actual separation which will take place on the next day on the Cross. At this moment Jesus is, if we may so speak, beginning the inauguration of the new pact between God and men which will be sealed on Friday by the actual shedding of His Blood, the offering of His human life for the sins of men.

UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

But this Body and Blood, made mysteriously present under the appearances, the sign of bread and wine, made thus present by the words and the power of Jesus, are not only a sacrifice offered to God. They are also a sacrament, a sacred sign instituted by God to give grace to men. For the Body and Blood thus present under the sign of bread and wine are the Body and Blood of Jesus, the Son of God, the Author of Grace. This is what Jesus meant when He said, ‘He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him’ (John 6:55-57).

‘HE THAT EATETH MY FLESH AND DRINKETH MY BLOOD ABIDETH IN ME AND I IN HIM’

Nor did Jesus, in instituting what we now call the Eucharist, the sacrament and sacrifice of His Body and Blood, cater to any gross cannibalistic understanding of His promise and His action. The eating of His flesh and the drinking of His Blood minister not to the grossly material nourishment of men’s flesh, but rather to the spiritual nourishment of their souls. By receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus His followers attain spiritual union with Him and, through Him, with His Father in heaven.

THE NEW COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND MEN

In instituting the Eucharist Jesus had begun a new covenant between God and men. That covenant He was to seal on the next day with His Blood. Judas had already gone to make the arrangeements for His betrayal into the hands of His enemies. Jesus knew that the end of His earthly life was near. But He also knew that His apparent humiliation in death was to end in the triumph of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. So He said to the Apostles, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and, as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so to you also I say it now’ (John 13:31-33).

THE FRUIT YOU WILL BE RECOGNISED BY

But before He ascends to heaven Jesus gives His Apostles a new commandment, a new rule of life, a rule which will enable men to recognise them as the disciples of Jesus: ‘A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: that as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:34-35).

Because of His love for all men Jesus is about to shed His blood as a propitiation to God for the sins of men. As He Himself had said, no man can have greater love for a friend than to lay down his life for the friend. This is the love which Jesus now commands His followers to exercise toward all men. This all-embracing Christian love will be the distinguishing mark of the follower, the disciple of Jesus.

After giving this wonderful but difficult commandment of love the mind of Jesus turns in sorrow to the thought that His Apostles will fail Him in His hour of trial. ‘You will all be scandalised this night because of me,’ He said; ‘for it is written, ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the flock will be scattered’ (Matthew 26:31). Jesus applies to Himself the prophecy of the prophet Zacharias, ‘O sword… Strike the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ (Zacharias [Zechariah] 13:7).

But immediately He gives them a note of hope: ‘But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew 26:32).

‘ALL SHALL BE SCANDALISED’

The Apostles, still not understanding that Jesus must die for the sins of men, and still trusting in His power, protest that they will not desert their Master. Peter is especially vehement in his protestation: ‘Even though all shall be scandalised because of thee, I will never be scandalised’ (Matthew 26:33). Jesus sadly rebuked him for his presumption, saying, ‘Amen I say to thee, this very night, before a cock crows, thou wilt deny me thrice’ (Matthew 26:34).

But Jesus also knows that Peter and the Apostles will repent their failure and will return to Him in faith. And so He says to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren’ (Luke 22:31-32).

JESUS PRAYED FOR PETER

Why Jesus chose as His Apostles men who would fail Him in His hour of trial is a question which only God can answer with certainty. What is clear to us in the Gospel story is that Jesus knew that the eleven Apostles would repent of their failure and be all the stronger for it. To make certain this turn of events He prays for Peter. He has already promised to make Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Now He prays that Peter, in spite of his failure in the crucial hour of Jesus, will retain his faith and so be able to strengthen the faith of the others. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the prayer will be heard. The faith of the Apostles will be steadfast because the faith of Peter will be firm.

Peter, even in the face of the warning of Jesus, was obdurate in protesting his courageous loyalty. ‘Even if I should have to die with thee, I will not deny thee’ (Matthew 26:35). The other Apostles joined with him in the same resolution.

DIFFICULTIES AHEAD

Jesus had tried to warn them of their own weakness. They would not listen. He tried once again. He reminded them that when He first sent them out to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God they had lacked nothing, they had been well received in the countryside. But now everything would be changed. He Himself would be regarded as a criminal. He referred to Himself the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah], ‘And he was reckoned among the wicked.’ His followers would also be so regarded. Catering for the moment to their fiery Galilean spirit He said to them, ‘Let him who has no sword sell his tunic and buy one’ (Luke 22:36).

Jesus was not counselling His Apostles to spread the Kingdom of God by the sword. But He was trying to impress upon them the difficulty they would face in retaining their loyalty to and their faith in Himself.

The Apostles, however, took up the reference to a sword literally and bravely replied, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords’ (Luke 22:38). What were two swords against the Temple guards or against the Roman might? But Jesus, knowing that His kingdom would grow by grace and faith and not by the sword, replied indulgently, ‘It is enough’ (Luke 22:38).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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“EVEN A FEEBLE LENT OF BROKEN RESOLUTIONS MAY BY GOD’S GRACE BRING ABOUT A CHANGE IN ME”

“THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS

Jesus’ own period of 40 days in the desert introduces us to the meaning of Lent, for the experience of Jesus can itself only be understood in relation to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert. Exodus recounts the story of how, by a gratuitous act of love on God’s part, in fidelity to a promise he made long ago – a promise which would seen to be all empty by reason of the years and the suffering which have intervened – God allows Israel to escape from the slavery of Egypt to worship him in the wilderness. There the Lord offers them a covenant on Sinai. He feeds them miraculously and even overlooks their worshipping a golden calf to bring them at last to the Promised Land.

NOT SEEKING TO ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM GOD BY MATERIAL SECURITY

Now we have the key to understanding the temptations of Jesus: the temptation to worship the Devil, the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptations to power. These would all be temptations like those of his ancestors, to somehow want to be self-reliant, whereas the wilderness experience is about discovering the only true freedom: a total reliance on God expressed in worship of him, fidelity to his law and an essential love of poverty, of a depending on him for my how am I to live, not seeking once to isolate myself from him by material security.

THE ONLY TRUE FREEDOM: TOTAL RELIANCE ON GOD

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all to teach me reliance on God and solidarity with those who suffer. They are to make space in me for knowledge of my poverty and tame my ego a bit. Even a feeble Lent, a Lent of broken resolutions, might by God’s grace bring about a change in me if I am forced to admit how weak is my will, how shallow my religiosity, and how deep and real my need for God’s mercy. Remember that wonderful Chesterton paradox used to describe a saint: ‘A saint can be recognised by the fact that he knows himself to be a sinner.’

‘LOOK NOT ON OUR SINS, BUT ON THE FAITH OF YOUR CHURCH’

Just as Jesus needed to immerse himself the story of Israel, the story of God’s miraculous saving in history, so Lent is a time of identifying myself more fully with the Church, to experience in this time the miraculous effects the saving God wishes to bring about in my own history, particularly through the miraculous signs and wonders of the sacraments. This is not merely a personal journey, but also a collective one for the whole Church, a time to remember the prayer which precedes Communion which asks God to look ‘not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. It is also a time to remember that however weak or sinful I may feel I am supported by the merits and intercession of the whole Church. Together as part of the Chosen People we will rejoice in the arrival at the Promised Land of Easter.

LOOK TO THE HORIZON AND JUST KEEP GOING

We will welcome the newly baptised at Easter and share in the joy of the salvation they have been promised. Exodus also reminds us that salvation has a history: it does not happen all at once. We are on a journey. The direction of travel is all-important, and the wonderful promise of the destination allows one to lift the eyes to the horizon and slog on, even when the going is touch and we lament what must be left behind.”
– This is an excerpt of “Diary of a City Priest”, by Pastor Iuventus, (available from Amazon) which was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 14 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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23rd MARCH, BIBLE READING I (EXODUS 17:3-7)

WATER FROM THE ROCK

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’

Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?’ he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’

This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: ISRAEL’S LIBERATION FROM SLAVERY IN EGYPT

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE – THE LIBERATION (FROM THE BOOK OF EXODUS)

“God Himself had foretold the sojourn of the Chosen People in the land of Egypt. On one occasion when He was testing the faith of Abraham, God said to him: ‘Know thou beforehand that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land not their own, and they shall bring them under bondage, and afflict them, four hundred years. But I will judge the nation they shall serve, and after this they shall come out with great substance’ (Genesis 15: 13-14).

THEIR LONG STAY IN EGYPT WAS BENEFICIAL

The stay in Egypt began well. Jacob, his sons and their families entered Egypt under favourable circumstances. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was ruling the empire for Pharaoh. Through his kindness the land of Gessen was given to them. There they prospered. Through the years they increased in numbers until they ‘filled the land’ (Exodus 1:7). No doubt… their long dwelling in Egypt was of great benefit to them. They learned the art of farming as practised by the Egyptians. They became aware of the value of a strong systematic government. They became acquainted with the arts and the artistic techniques of the Egyptians.

MEANWHILE, ABRAHAM’S DESCENDANTS HAD GROWN INTO A TRUE NATION

In the providence of God they were able to preserve their religious beliefs. This was made possible by the fact that they dwelled in a land of their own and were thus preserved from the contagion of the idolatrous and polytheistic beliefs and practices of the Egyptians. Some of them seem to have gone into the cities of the empire. Moses, their great leader, was probably born in or near the capital of Egypt. But the descendants of Abraham who dwelt in the cities would have been assisted in maintaining their religious beliefs by the example of their relatives who dwelt in Gessen.

For several hundred years, then, the Chosen People dwelt in Egypt, increasing in numbers until they formed a true nation, benefiting from the civilising factors of the Egyptian culture, and yet keeping alive and strong their faith in the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

THE SHEER SIZE OF A ‘NATION WITHIN A NATION’ POSED A SECURITY RISK

They became so numerous that a Pharaoh ‘who knew not Joseph’ began to fear them. As is usual in such cases his fear led him to oppress them. ‘Behold,’ he said, ‘the people of the children of Israel are numerous and stronger than we. Come, let us wisely oppress them, lest they multiply; and if any war shall rise against us, join with our enemies, and having overcome us, depart out of the land’ (Exodus 1:9-10).

The Israelites were impressed into forced labour. With their forced labour the Pharaoh built the storehouse cities of Pithom and Amesses. When even this severe oppression did not reduce their numbers the Pharaoh decreed that all male children of the Israelites should be killed at birth by the midwives. When the midwives failed to carry out this order, he ruled that all male infants should be cast into the river.

THE BIRTH OF MOSES

It was while this decree was in force that he was born whom God was to send to liberate the people from bondage in Egypt. The wife of a man of the tribe of Levi gave birth to a son. Desiring to save his life she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer she placed him in a basket of bulrushes and laid the basket by the edge of the river. She placed his sister near by to watch what would happen.

The daughter of the Pharaoh came to the river to bathe. When she saw the basket she sent one of her maids to fetch it to her. When she saw the infant she took compassion on it and decided to save it. The child’s sister came up and offered the services of a Hebrew woman to nurse the child. When Pharaoh’s daughter assented, the girl brought the child’s own mother to nurse it. When the child was grown Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and called him Moses.

MOSES IS ADOPTED INTO THE EGYPTIAN ROYAL HOUSEHOLD

Because he was nursed and brought up by his own mother Moses retained his allegiance to his own people. But, as the adopted child of an Egyptian princess, he learned the ways of the Pharaoh’s court. This surely fitted him for the role of leader to his people to which God later called him.

MOSES KILLS AN EGYPTIAN OVERSEER

One day Moses saw one of the Egyptian overseers striking one of the Hebrew workmen. In his anger at this harsh treatment of one of his fellow-countrymen he slew the Egyptian. Some of his own brethren spread the story abroad, and when it came to the ears of the Pharaoh he determined to kill Moses, but Moses fled to the land of Midian. Here he married one of the daughters of Jethro, the priest of the Midianites.

THE ROLE OF MAN’S FREE WILL IN THE SALVATION HISTORY:

MOSES IS CHOSEN AS A LEADER

Meanwhile the oppression of the Israelites became so burdensome to them that they cried out to God to save them. God took pity upon them and set about their deliverance. He appeared to Moses near the Mountain Horeb. He appeared as a burning flame in the burning bush.

GOD APPEARS TO MOSES IN THE BURNING BUSH

He said to Moses: ‘I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob… I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt and I have heard their cry: because of the rigour of them that are over the works. And knowing their sorrow I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians; and to bring them out of the land into a good and spacious land, into a land that floweth with milk and honey, to the places of the Chanaanite, and Hethite, and Amorrhite, and Pherezite, and Hevite and Jebusite. For the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have seen their affliction, wherewith they are oppressed by the Egyptians. But come, and I will send thee to Pharaoh, that thou mayst bring forth my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt’ (Exodus 3:6-10).

The encounter of God with Moses at the mountain Horeb reveals very clearly the role that free will plays in the history of man. In response to the pleas of His Chosen People God freely choses Moses to be the deliverer of the Jews. Nor does God destroy the free will of Moses by this choice.

Moses is very reluctant to accept the role to which God calls him. ‘Who am I,’ he protests, ‘that I should go to Pharaoh, and should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (Exodus 3:11). When God insists that he will be the deliverer of the Israelites, Moses objects that ‘they will not believe me, nor hear my voice. But they will say: The Lord hath not appeared to thee’ (Exodus 4:1). God promises him that miracles will confirm his appointment. Moses still seeks to be relieved of the onerous task.

He pleads that he is not eloquent, and besides he has an impediment of speech. Then the Lord said to him: ‘Who made man’s mouth? Or who made the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind? Did not I? Go therefore, and I will be in thy mouth; and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak. But he said: I beseech thee, Lord, send whom thou wilt send’ (Exodus 4:11-13).

Even though God is not pleased with this final protest of Moses, He still insists that He wants Moses to lead the people and He appoints Aaron, the brother of Moses, to act as the mouthpiece of Moses. Even at this critical point in the history of mankind God will not run roughshod over the free will of man. He accedes to all the requests of Moses. His plan for the salvation of mankind will be fulfilled, but only with man’s full cooperation. His almighty power will rescue man from the consequences of sin, but His power will be exercised with patience and even with the divine condescension of miracles.

‘I AM WHO I AM; I AM HE WHO CAUSES THINGS TO EXIST’

It is on this same occasion that God reveals to Moses the Name of God. ‘Moses said to God: Lo, I shall go to the children of Israel, and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you. If they should say to me: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God said to Moses: I AM WHO I AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS hath sent me to you’ (Exodus 3:13-14).

By this name – I AM WHO I AM – God revealed that His nature is existence; He is Himself the reason and the explanation of His own existence. Or it may be, in another meaning of the name, that He wished to call attention to the fact that He is the creator of the world, for the name can also mean ‘He Who causes existence,’ that is, He Who causes things to exist.

• [“PASSPORT REFUSED BY THE EGYPTIAN AUTHORITIES, NO VISA FOR THE ISRAELITES TO EMIGRATE”] •

WHEN THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT IMPOSED EVEN MORE RESTRICTIONS ON THEM: MIRACLES OF THE TEN PLAGUES: FROGS, HAILSTONES, LOCUSTS ETC.

In response to God’s command Moses returns to Egypt to bring about the liberation of his people. But Pharaoh was not of a mind to let the Israelites go. In fact, his answer to Moses’ first request was to inflict even greater hardship upon the people. Moses appealed again to God and God promised to make Pharaoh let the Israelites depart.

To achieve this, God performed the miracle of the ten plagues. He turned the waters of the Nile to blood; He filled the land with frogs which eveninvaded houses; then He sent a plague of cinifs, followed by one of flies; after this the cattle were afflicted with disease; then boils afflicted both men nd beasts; then came a great hail, with stones sobig that they killed whatever men and beasts were out in the fields and destroyed the trees; the eighth plague was of locusts and the ninth, three days of darkness. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the Israelites go. Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Yet one plague more will I bring upon Pharaoh and Egypt; and after that he shall let you go, and thrust you out…

THE FIRST CELEBRATION OF THE PASSOVER

‘At midnight I will enter into Egypt. And every first-born in the land of the Egyptians shall die, from the first-born of Pharaoh, who sitteth on his throne, even to the first-born of the handmaid, that is at the mill, and all the first-born of beasts’ (Exodus 11:4-5).

THE SAVING BLOOD OF THE LAMB [CHRIST WILL BE THE LAMB FOR ALL MANKIND]

That the children of the Israelites might be spared from this plague, Moses, under the command of God, instituted the first celebration of the feast of the Pasch or Passover. The Israelites were to take lambs, sacrifice them, and spread the blood of the lambs on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses. The lambs were then to be eaten with unleavened bread.

At midnight the hand of God struck the land of Egypt and the first-born of every Egyptian home died and the first-born of their cattle. This great punishment inflicted by God on the people of Egypt moved Pharaoh to relent and let the Israelites depart from his land. He sent for Moses and Aaron in the night and said, ‘Arise and go forth from among my people, you and the children of Israel’ (Exodus 12:31).

THE ISRAELITES CROSS THE RED SEA WITH MOSES

THE PARTING OF THE RED SEA

Under divine guidance Moses led his people out of Egypt into the desert and to the Red Sea. Pharaoh repented of his decision to let them go and sent his troops to bring them back to Egypt. When the Israelites perceived the Egyptians pursuing them they lost heart and reproached Moses for leading them to destruction in the wilderness.

But Moses assured them that God would save them.

During the night God sent a strong and burning wind which drove the waters of the Red Sea off a fording place. In the morning the Israelites crossed over the clear portion of the lake. When the Egyptians followed, the wind ceased and the waters returned to their usual place. The Egyptians perished in the returning flood. ‘And the people feared the Lord and Moses, his servant’ (Exodus 14:31).”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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THE SALVATION HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND AS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE: ABRAHAM, ISAAC, JACOB

“In this early history of the Chosen People we see the will of God, man and the devil striving for the souls of men. In the sins of the patriarchs and their children, in the sins of their neighbours we see the weak wills of men and the malevolent will of the devil who seeks to draw men away from God.”

THIS IS PART III OF THE SERIES ON MAN’S SALVATION HISTORY. IT CAN BE READ INDEPENDENTLY FROM PARTS I “ADAM AND EVE” AND PART II “THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM”, WHICH ARE FOUND ON THIS BLOG.

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE

“God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. He chose Abraham to be an instrument in the divine plan for the salvation of all men. To Abraham, in return for faith and obedience, God made great promises. He promised that Abraham would become a great nation, with a land of its own, and through him all nations would be blessed.

The blessings which God promises to Abraham seem to be chiefly the good things of this world: many descendants, enough to form a great nation; land enough to enable himself and his descendants to prosper; kings of his blood to rule in this world; and the extension, through his descendants, of these same blessings to the other nations of the world. The nature of these promises, their apparent worldliness, show clearly the wisdom and mercy, we might even say the tenderness of God in His dealings with men.

GOD’S WISDOM AND MERCY

When God calls Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees it is clear that men have forgotten the one true God. They live in deep and dark ignorance of the existence of the infinite Spirit Who created them to live familiarly with Him. Abraham’s father, Thare, is a polytheist and an idolater. God has to reveal Himself to Abraham.

Ignorant of the very existence of the true God, the men of Abraham’s age were also ignorant of the holiness of God and of the holiness which man, the image of God, is called to practise. Their desires were focussed not so much on the beauties of the spirit as on the pleasures of this world. They thought not of heaven, but of the world. They did not dream of living with God, but rather of riches and possessions and of the children and servants who would bring these things to themselves and their race.

A WORLDY OUTLOOK

Abraham was no different from the men of his own time and place. It is for this reason that God, when He calls Abraham to reawaken in the world the knowledge of the one true God, stoops to the capacities and the dreams of Abraham. In His wisdom God knows how difficult it would be for Abraham to cast away entirely the worldliness which thousands of years of sinfulness had made the ordinary climate of all human thoughts and desires. In His mercy He calls Abraham with the promise of those blessings which He knows will bring forth the faith and obedience which He desires from him. To those who believe in God and His almighty power it is of course obvious that God could have given Abraham so great a gift of divine grace as to enable him at once to rise to the highest ideals of moral perfection. But God did not do so, and in this He shows us His great tenderness, both for Abraham and for all men. Just as God desired the free faith and obedience of Adam, so also He desires the free faith and obedience of Abraham. He will not overwhelm the soul and will of Abraham with His grace and power. He will entice it slowly from the long sleep of worldliness to the dawn of true religious spirituality. And so He promises Abraham, not the halls of heaven, the hush of a mysterious eternity, but the more modest space of and earthly land and kingdom, the rush and the bustle of an earthly nation.

Abraham was faithful and obedient to God, obedient even to the point of almost sacrificing his son Isaac to God. God rewards his loving faith and obedience. He makes Abraham the forefather of many descendants and He begins the work of blessing the whole world through the seed of Abraham. But while the fulfilment of the first blessing – the multiplication of the descendants of Adam – is a work of expansion, the fulfilment of the second blessing – the blessing of the whole world through Abraham – is a work of contradiction.

THE DIVINE BLESSING PASSES TO ISAAC

As Moses tells us the story of Abraham, Abraham begot children of Sara, his first wife, of Agar, the handmaid of Sara, and of Ceture, the wife he married after the death of Sara. But since the divine blessing passes only to Isaac, the son of Sara, the other children of Abraham appear in the story only for a moment and our attention is concentrated on Isaac.

THE ORIGIN OF TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL

Isaac marries Rebecca, and has two sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau becomes the father of the Edomites, and Jacob becomes Israel, the father of the Israelites, the Chosen People of God. By his two wives, Lia and Rachel, and by their handmaids, Zelpha and Bala, Jacob became the father of twelve sons: Ruben, Simeon, Levi, Juda, Issacher, Zabulon, Benjamin, Dan, Nephtali, Gad, Aser and Joseph. These, in their turn, became the forefathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.

God fulfilled his promise to Abraham; He gave him many descendants and He made Abraham and his children rich in worldly possessions. Of Abraham, at the time when he sojourned in Egypt, Moses says: ‘He had sheep and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants and maid-servants, and she-asses and camels’ (Genesis 12:16). Of Isaac we read: ‘And the man was enriched, and he went on prospering and increasing, till he became exceedingly great. And he had possessions of sheep and of herds, and a very great family’ (Genesis 26:13-14). Jacob is wealthy enough to send to his brother Esau a gift of ‘two hundred she-goats, twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes, and twenty rams, thirty milk camels with their colts, forty kine, and twenty bulls, twenty she-asses, and ten of their foals’ (Genesis 32:14-15). Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob, becomes ruler over the whole of Egypt. This proved fortunate for the descendants of Abraham. When Jacob and his sons and their families were stricken with the same famine which afflicted Egypt and the adjacent countries, they descended into Egypt where they were well received by Joseph and saved from the famine.

God fulfils His promises. Through His descendants and their possessions Abraham is growing into a great nation. Under God’s providence, however, this movement of expansion is accompanied by a movement of contradiction. God has promised not only to bless Abraham and his descendants, but also to bless the whole of mankind through Abraham: ‘In thee (Abraham) shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 12:3). But this blessing is not to descend to mankind through all the descendants of Abraham. The channel through which God’s blessing will come to all men is not the whole race of Abraham but only a certain chosen stock, and even within this chosen stock the channel is constantly narrowing. God changes the name of Abram to Abraham to signify that Abraham is to be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Of the children of Abraham God chooses Isaac to be the bearer of the divine blessing to mankind: ‘…my covenant I will establish with Isaac’ (Genesis 17:21). ‘In Isaac shall thy seed be called’ (Genesis 21:12).

THE DIVINE BLESSING IS PASSED ON TO JACOB

Isaac passes on this divine blessing to his son Jacob (Genesis 27:28-29). God Himself ratifies the choice: ‘I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac. The land, wherein thou sleepest, I will give to thee and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth: Thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in thee and thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 28:13-14). This blessing Jacob gives only to Juda of his twelve sons: ‘Juda, thee shall thy brethren praise. Thy hands shall be on the necks of thy enemies: the sons of thy father shall bow down to thee. Juda is a lion’s whelp: to the prey, my son, thou art gone up. Resting thou hast couched as a lion, and as a lioness. Who shall rouse him? The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent: and he shall be the expectation of nations. Tying his foal to the vineyard, and his ass, O my son, to the vine. He shall wash his robe in wine, and his garment in the blood of the grape. His eyes are more beautiful than wine: and his teeth whiter than milk’ (Genesis 49:8-12).

The blessing of all men is to come through Abraham, but through a channel which is continually growing smaller. From Abraham it descends to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob, from Jacob to Juda, and from Juda it will descend to one individual who is the one ‘that is to be sent… the expectation of nations.’ Jacob’s prophecy about Juda seems to imply that finally the salvation of the world will be brought about by a single descendant of Juda. Through one specific descendant of Juda the divine plan for the reconciliation of man with God will take place.

THE RECONCILIATION WILL TAKE PLACE THROUGH ONE DESCENDANT OF JUDAH

From Abraham to the twelve sons of Jacob and their children, the family of Abraham is growing in numbers and in wealth and power. And hidden in the midst of this growing multitude is the seed of human salvation. The seed of salvation lies cradled in the growing race of Israel.

In the growing race of Israel God is preparing the salvation of the world. But this salvation means the reconciliation of men to God. It means therefore that men who are disobedient to God will become obedient to Him, that men who do not believe in God will come to faith in Him. God said of Abraham: ‘Can I hide from Abraham what I am about to do: Seeing that he shall become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations shall be blessed? For I know that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, and do judgement and justice: that for Abraham’s sake the Lord may bring to effect all the things he hath spoken unto him’ (Genesis 18:17-19). Through Abraham men will keep the way of the Lord and do judgment and justice. But the obedience which God seeks is a free obedience, the obedience of love, and men have for generations, for thousands of generations, been binding their wills over to the devil and sin.

POLYGAMY AND OTHER SINS ARE RAMPANT

Through Abraham the world of men will be reconciled to God. But the preparation of mankind for this reconciliation will be slow. This is apparent even in the behaviour of Abraham and his immediate posterity. Abraham himself allows the Pharaoh of Egypt to take Sara under the illusion fostered by Abraham, that she is only the sister of Abraham. He is a polygamist, taking Agar to wife while Sara is still alive. Jacob lies to his father Isaac and so steals the divine blessing which Isaac meant to bestow upon Esau. Jacob, too, is a polygamist, taking to wife Lia and her sister Rachel, and their handmaidens, Zelpha and Bala. Dina, the daughter of Jacob, was ravished by Sichem. The sons of Jacob, her brothers, were righteously indignant at this horrible crime, but they wreaked an even more horrible revenge upon the Sichemites. Juda sinned with Thamar, who had been wife to two of his sons and was promised to Sela, his third son. The brothers of Joseph sought to kill him, and finally sold him into captivity to the Madianites.

THE FIRST FAINT GLIMMERING OF THE DIVINE LIGHT RETURNING TO MAN

In the midst of a people as sinful as this, God is preparing the salvation of mankind. In their sins the evil wills of the devil and of men are clearly seen. But we can also see the first faint glimmering of the divine light returning to man. Through Abraham the knowledge of the one true God is returning to the earth. Abraham believes and his faith is reputed to him unto justice. Isaac believes and Jacob and the sons of Jacob. It is not easy to keep this faith alive in the minds and hearts of the people. Jacob has to take measures to destroy idolatry and polytheism among his people: ‘And Jacob having called together all his household, said: Cast away the strange gods that are among you, and be cleansed and change your garments’ (Genesis 35:2).

FAITH AND OBEDIENCE

In this faith Abraham and his descendants are obedient to God. In obedience Abraham leaves Ur and goes to Haran, and then to Egypt, and thence back to Palestine. In obedience to God Abraham circumcises himself and all the males in his household as a sign of the covenant between God and the race of Abraham. In response to God’s command Jacob leaves Mesopotamia, where he had become rich, and returned to Palestine. In fact, so great does the reliance on God of this Chosen People become that Jacob and his sons will not go down into Egypt to escape the ravages of the famine until God assures them that He will protect them and bring them out of Egypt safely in due time. In a world that has forgotten the one true God surely this faith and obedience are already a sign of the mercy of God slowly working out the divine promise of salvation.

Moreover, through this Chosen People the name of the one true God is becoming known to the other peoples of the region. To rescue his nephew Lot from captivity Abraham made war on Amraphel, the king of Senaar, and Arioch, king of Pontus, and Chodorlahomor, king of the Elamites, and Thadal, king of nations. After his victory Melchisedech, the king of Salem, offers a sacrifice of bread and wine to the God of Abraham. When Abimilech, the king of Gerara, unknowingly took Sara, Abraham’s wife, for himself, God appeared to him and commanded him to give Sara back to Abraham. When Jacob, with his wives, children, servants and flocks, seeks to flee from Laban, his father-in-law, God appears to Laban and commands him not to deal harshly with Jacob. In all these instances at least an intimation of the existence of the one true God was given to other peoples through Abraham and his descendants.

A VERY SLOW BUT SURE PROGRESS TOWARDS GOD’S PURITY AND HOLINESS

But the return of man to God is slow. Both God and man move slowly. Man, at his time, is so far from God that his progress to God is a long road, with many turnings, even some delays or cutbacks. But constantly God is leading man upward from the darkness and ignorance and turmoil of sin and unbridled passions to the purity and holiness which is his birthright as the image of God.

This slowness of the divine plan is strikingly illustrated in the captivity of the children of Abraham in the land of Egypt. A great famine afflicted Egypt and Canaan, the land in which Jacob and his sons and families were dwelling. But in Egypt, Joseph, the son of Jacob who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, had risen to the position of ruler of Egypt under the Pharaoh. Under the divine inspiration he had wisely provided ahead of time for the famine. Egypt was plentifully supplied with food. Under divine guidance Jacob and his sons and their families go down into Egypt. And here they remain several hundred years before God leads them out to seek possession of the land which God has promised them.

The length of their sojourn in Egypt is a proof that God is working slowly to mature them into a nation fit to be the chosen people of God, fit to be the channel through which salvation would come to all the world. First of all, their journey into Egypt is a divine test of their faith. Jacob and his children are reluctant to go into Egypt. But God says to Jacob: ‘Fear not, go down into Egypt, for I will make a great nation of thee there. I will go down with thee thither, and will bring thee back again from thence…’ (Genesis 46:3-4).

Then in Egypt God fulfils his promise to make Israel a great nation. In Egypt through the kindness of Joseph they escape the dangers of the great famine. They are given the land of Gessen for themselves. There ‘the children of Israel increased, and sprung up into multitudes. And growing exceedingly strong they filled the land’ (Exodus 1:7). In the course of time so numerous and strong do they become that the Pharaoh fears them and begins to oppress them ‘lest they multiply’ (Exodus 1:10).

It is legitimate to imagine that their long dwelling in the land of Egypt helped to prepare them for their ultimate conquest and rule of the land promised by God in Palestine. When they went down into Egypt they were semi-nomads, making their livelihood by herding sheep, cattle and goats, and by some agriculture. From the point of view of civilisation and culture they were inferior to the great empires of Babylonia and Egypt which flourished on either side of them. But in Egypt they came into close contact with a flourishing civilisation. From the Egyptians they may well have learned the arts and crafts, from building and sculpture to war and government, which were to help in the making of the Kingdom of God in the Promised Land.

GOD WORKS TOWARDS THE DELIVERANCE OF MEN FROM SIN AND THE DEVIL

In this early history of the Chosen People we see the will of God, man and the devil striving for the ssouls of men. In the sins of the patriarchs and their children, in the sins of their neighbours we see the weak wills of men and the malevolent will of the devil who seeks to draw men away from God. But, in the revelations of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we see God beginning to save man in spite of man’s sinfulness. In the hidden ways in which God is working with mankind, choosing one race to be the channel of salvation, and in fact one of the weaker races of men, in the patience and forbearance which He shows to the weakness of His Chosen People, in the long time He takes to prepare His people for the ultimate deliverance of men from sin and the devil, we see both God’s tenderness with men and the strong and sure way in which He will fulfil His promise to bring men victory over the devil, sin and death.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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