Summary: The periods of servitude Israel spent in Egypt and Babylon were times repentance; an allegory depicting the meaning of Lent for us.
READINGS FROM SCRIPTURE
Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
The Reading from Genesis tells about Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, when he was quite old journeyed with his family from Palestine to settle in Egypt. A famine had struck the land promised to Abraham and his family. This forced the Bedouin people to take their flocks and families to settle near the Nile River.
Even though Jacob’s son Joseph rose to power in Egypt, Jacob’s family was not assimilated into the culture of Egypt – they remained a distinct people.
Egypt was a highly structured society. Pharoah, he priest king maintained order through a sort of reign of terror – by maintaining a tradition of appeasing a pantheon of gods that had to be obeyed else nature would fail. Pharoah and his priests ruled the land with detailed instructions as to how the people should conduct themselves. One generation was very like another. By birth, a persons life was predetermined. The children of Abraham did not fear the gods of Egypt and refused to give up their mental freedom though eventually they were reduced to servitude.
This story tells how Israel’s Children went down to Egypt. It became the beginning of the family’s national story. Christians more than a 1000 years later, made it their story.
We say they “went down to Egypt.” That descent into servitude of God’s free people is a sort of death, a descent into a grave. Four hundred years later they experience a resurrection as Moses leads them out of Egypt. They wandered 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land.
Christians adapted Israel’s story, retelling it everyday in the Church year.