Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
July 15, 2019
Today, in Mercy, we begin a three-week journey through the Book of Exodus. The word “journey” is used purposefully because the Book not only narrates a journey in history, it invites us to move with it into a deeper spiritual freedom within ourselves.
It also impresses me that these weeks of reading come to us during a time when the world witnesses oppressed peoples exiting their ravished homelands in search of a sustainable life. Our prayerful reading of these Exodus passages may bring us deeper understanding, compassion, and advocacy courage for these struggling sisters and brothers.
In today’s introduction to Exodus, the narrator provides a transition from the closing of Genesis to the new situation in Egypt. Many years have passed. Favored Joseph is long dead. A “new king”, never named perhaps from contempt of his evilness, “knows nothing” of Joseph. If we don’t care enough to “know” another, we can never care enough to respect and foster their life.
This Pharaoh’s sole preoccupation is to preserve Egyptian dominance . He was a man driven by irrational fears. To allay those fears, he was willing to suppress the life of a people who had lived peacefully in Egypt for hundreds of years.
The Pharaoh begins by objectifying the Israelites as potential enemies and terrorists.
He orders their containment and oppression, moving them to encampments. Ironically, these encampment cities had originally been built, at Joseph’s direction, to contain surplus grain before the famine so that Egypt would not starve!
Still, the Israelites thrive and grow. They are the children of God’s Promise. This growth further threatens Pharaoh, spinning him into more desperate and ineffective attempts to retain domination. His systemic oppression doesn’t work. His fears – and his projection of them on to the Egyptian populace – consume both him and his people.
As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized. … Once a situation of violence and oppression has been established, it engenders an entire way of life and behavior for those caught up in it—oppressor and oppressed alike. Both are submerged in the situation, and both bear the marks of oppression.
PAULO FREIRE, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pp. 43-44)
Today’s readings offer us so much to consider in terms of a culture of domination versus one of right relationship. These balances and imbalances occur in exchanges as small as a word between two people, or as large as a policy between two nations. The parallels to our current world are painfully obvious. There may be parallels in our personal relationships as well that we might place into the power of prayer.
May we have eyes to see, a heart to care, and the courage to act – both personally and globally.
Music: Hymn to Our Alien God – Maryknoll Father’s and Brothers
(Background music is the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” by William Whiting