Moses and the Exodus, the Mighty Deeds of God and Us
To better understand our Lenten journey of hope toward the Risen Jesus, Pope Francis said in his general audience on Ash Wednesday that we must refer to the fundamental experience of the first Passover and the Exodus from Egypt, which prefigured our definitive salvation in Christ and is made present again in the Eucharistic sacrifice. “The Paschal Mystery of Jesus is his exodus, by which he has opened the way for us to reach full, eternal and blessed life,” Pope Francis explains.
Some generations after Joseph had saved the Israelites from famine and brought them to Egypt, the people God had formed a covenant with were conscripted to provide forced labor to build various public works. They remained in this state of bondage for hundreds of years. “But the Lord has not forgotten his people and his promise,” recounts Pope Francis. “He calls Moses and, with a mighty arm, enables the Israelites to flee from Egypt and guides them through the desert toward the Land of Liberty.”
When God appeared in the burning bush and called Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring his people out of Egypt, Moses did not feel he was up to the task. “If you please, my Lord, send someone else,” he said, insisting that he was a poor speaker and did not know what to say. But God told him not to worry – not only would he have the assistance of his brother Aaron, but God would help them both in what to say and do. As with Mary and Joseph, at the center of Moses’ calling was grace – and a willingness to be an instrument of that grace.
Scripture tells us how the Holy Spirit dwelt in the midst of God’s people Israel during the Exodus. When Moses appeared before Pharaoh, it was the Spirit who gave him the words to say, “Thus, says the Lord: Let my people go.” The mighty signs and wonders of God seen as plagues against Egypt and its false gods were the Spirit in action, including when the Lord passed over the houses of his people that were marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb, thereby saving them from the death of their firstborn. Likewise, the Spirit is present in the column of cloud and fire when the people were brought out of Egypt, he is later manifested in the fire on Mount Sinai, and when Moses stretched his hand over the Red Sea, it was the Spirit who allowed God’s people to safely pass through the waters, just as we are saved in the waters of baptism.
The epic story of the Exodus and Moses teaches us that we should not be hesitant or think we are inadequate and do not know what to say or do in proclaiming the Gospel or teaching the faith. God does not leave us alone in this work – he gives us the power to be “Spirit-filled evangelizers,” Pope Francis reminds us (Evangelii Gaudium, 259). With the Spirit working through us, any manner of mighty deeds can be done toward the transformation of the temporal order and salvation of humanity.
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