Leeks! Onions! Fleshpots!


The Readings for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B2)

Utinam mortui essemus per manum Domini in terra Aegypti, quando sedebamus super ollas carnium, et comedebamus panem in saturitate

Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full.

We’ve been slaves for 400 years. They know nothing but this life for generations. Suddenly there is freedom. Freedom… is hard. You have to make choices nearly every single day. And you have to be responsible for them. You can’t say My master made me do that and walk away from it. You have to own it. The Bible is filled with folks passing the buck. Here… demanding God feed them… I always wondered why God didn’t, instead, teach them how to hunt.

The Israelites were never good hunters. Warriors and farmers, yes. But not hunters. Seems like it would have been a logical choice. And we know there were sheep and other animals with them: because they made sacrifices. So why yell at God? Why demand that he feed us? I love the line, “God should have just killed us in Egypt… we could have died there where there were things to eat. Unlike here. Did God have to bring us this far on our feet to kill us?” 
The Jews here suffer from a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Everything wasn’t so bad as all that under the Egyptians, right? Even now we could probably get back in their good graces. And, yes, it was hard making all the bricks and, yes, they did take away our straw. But they fed us every day.
Then God feeds them. Later they will start to kvetch and moan about the manna itself: we never knew a miracle could be so boring…
Why didn’t God leave us alone? Why did he have to bring us out here? This question crosses my mind all the time. If God just wanted to save me could he not have zapped me with “Save Juice” whilst leaving me in my drunken collegiate stupor? Did he have to take away the sex? Could I not have had snuggles on the sofa and also high mass?
We think we love our captors. But we fear freedom.
That’s the issue, really. We’re afraid of the freedom that God has for us and we’d rather go back to slavery.
Deponere vos… veterem hominem, put off the old man qui corrumpitur secundum desideria erroris. who is corrupted by his erroneous desires. Renovamini autem spiritu mentis vestrae,
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Your old desires enslaved you. We must get new brains entirely broken off from the way the world thinks, the way the world feels, the way the world interacts with others who are in the world as well. Egypt is this world.
When we stand in church crying for “More relevancy” or “let me do the things I want” we are like the Jews, crying to go back to Egypt. We’re saying, Freedom is too hard, I’ll take slavery: slavery to my own desires, my own  disordered passions. Paul gives us a good description:

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. 

It’s a perfect picture of the world in which we live, a perfect picture of Eqypt.  We have been liberated from it… yet we always have fond memories. And always want to go back. This desire is so strong that there are a lot of folks – in both the Orthodox and Catholic communities – who are intenet on telling me how opressed I am. That they do this to cover their own choices, to justify their Egyptian side trips never dawns on them. They think they are being compassionate, when they are trying to sell me back to Egypt.

Tomorrow, the 6th, is the feast of the Transfiguration. That’s what we’re all called to be now, in Christ.

But really, addiction is so much easier than freedom.

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Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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