12 Pentecost

Ex. 1:8-2:10 [Isa. 51:1-6]
Ps. 124 [Ps. 138]
Rom. 12:1-8
Matt. 16:13-20

“Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we” (Ex. 1:8). The strategic plan, acting shrewdly, as the story states, involved setting taskmasters over the Israelites to oppress, control, and weaken them.

Going from strength to strength, however, the Israelites multiplied. The king of Egypt then ordered two Hebrew midwives to kill all male newborns. They refused. Amid terror and confusion, a boy was born, a beautiful baby, whom his mother hid for three months. No longer able to protect him, she placed him in a basket and let him float among the reeds at the bank of the river. Exposed and without protection, he floated on the river in a world committed to his death. This is the world. This is tribulation and the hour of death.

The Lord was with the child, “If the Lord had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us; Then would they have swallowed us up alive in their fierce anger toward us; Then would the waters have overwhelmed us and the torrent gone over us; Then would the raging waters have gone right over us” (Ps. 124:2-5). The Lord tended the child, preserving him and saving him from the waters.

First, however, the baby was cast out of the world, without father or mother or sister. Drawn up out of the water by a maid of Pharaoh’s daughter, the baby was, for a time, returned to his family, and they became the ministers of his continued formation. His mother nursed him, whispered into his ear, and with the kiss of her mouth made him know that he was a Hebrew. Moses was drawn out of the water and returned to his mother not only to be safe but to be the one who saves, to be the one who would lead his people through a torrent of water toward the dry land of freedom.

Baptismal themes abound!

Parents bring their children to baptism, perhaps not motivated as they ought, but rather by natural affections that are entirely good. They want to be responsible; they want to do what is right; they want nothing left undone when considering the good of their child. Deep down, however, they know that they are overwhelmed, overwhelmed with gratitude, but overwhelmed no less with the sense that the labor of bringing a child into the world says much about the trials the child will endure, the suffering that will come, and the death that will ever threaten, and, finally, arrive. At the waters of baptism, parents sense, though in a confused way, a Buddhist truth of ecumenical significance: “Life is suffering.”  The Christian response is, however, not escape, but complete entry into suffering and death, and the emergence, in Christ, of new life.

The child leaves the world and everything for Christ. For a moment, the child is without a father or mother or sister or brother. The child is set upon ancient waters and buried in death. The moment of the child’s sacramental death is the moment also of sacramental birth in Christ. Then the child, newly and eternally alive, is returned to his or her parents, who then whisper words of love, give sweet kisses, and tell the child of life beyond flesh and blood, a life devoted to the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. (Matt. 16:15-17). The child is safe, and the child will, in time, join the cause of the one who saves.

Look It Up: John 12:24

Think About It: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”