Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
March 17, 2008
Christ's resurrection creates our exodus
Change is difficult. Not every change, but change that might cut into our material lifestyle, change that moves us in ways that we don't desire to be moved. That's one lesson of the Exodus.
The crossing of the Red Sea is a type - a harbinger that is fully realized through Christ - of Baptism. The Exodus and Baptism are bound up with the Easter liturgy. It is through Christ's death and resurrection that we are baptized into new life. It is here that we find our own exodus.
But what of the Egyptians? They had resisted so much the liberation of the Israelites. It wasn't enough that God had turned the rivers into blood, sent plagues of frogs, boils, locusts, diseased livestock and others. They simply would not let God's people go. Only when the firstborn son of every family died, did they relent.
It was only a temporary reprieve. Soon Pharaoh's army with all its chariots was in hot pursuit.
How much disaster would it take for the Egyptians to realize they had to change their economy, their way of life? Nothing would persuade them.
For St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the early Church fathers, the Egyptians on their chariots represent a perverted form of the passions pursuing God's people. Just as the Red Sea destroys the Egyptians, so Baptism destroys the perversion of the passions.
The Egyptians' way of life ultimately cannot be reformed; it must be annihilated. They are addicted to their passions.
This is a sad testimony on human nature broken by sin. It says we are incapable of fundamental change. We must be destroyed before we can live again. This, of course, is what the grace of Baptism purports to do.
Sadly, the tentacles of sin remain. Without our ongoing openness to the power of grace, they ensnare us and bring a new death.
How much we are like the Egyptians. We have built an economy based on planned obsolescence and never-ending consumption. It has ensnared us and we show no inclination to break away or even to recognize our enslavement.
What if 10 plagues were to befall us, including the deaths of our firstborn? Could that persuade us of the need to change? Or, would we, like Pharaoh's men, be so addicted to our way of life that we too would drown in the sea?
Life in Christ is the treasure in the field. Jesus' followers will give up everything to possess that treasure.
Our guide to holding that treasure is following the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The early Church fathers understood the cloud as the Holy Spirit and the pillar of fire as Jesus, the Word of God. Jesus says as much in John 8:12 - "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life."
Our guide is Jesus and the power to change is the power of the Holy Spirit.
Yet our society, like so many others, is irreligious. While many people are moved by faith, most are not. The commanding heights of society - the media, the political system, corporate structures - see religion as a restraint. Mostly, we are paralysed into indifference.
We need conversion from the idol of self-sufficiency. Here is a perverted passion that may drown us in the sea.
Our hope is in Christ. The First Reading for Easter proclaims, "If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. . . . Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed (which is idolatry)" (Colossians 3:1-2, 5).
Our exodus, if we choose to pursue it, is ongoing. It calls us to change, sometimes uncomfortable change. Change that challenges our economic structures. But change that also challenges the perverted passions in each of us.
Welcome to the exodus.
- Glen Argan
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.