Thursday, 21 July 2011

thoughts at morning Mass

The readings at daily Mass recently have been following Moses from the beginning of Exodus onwards. They have been long, they are difficult to take in and priests seem reluctant to preach on them. So why include them? It is always good and fitting to hear of the triumphal routing of Pharoah in the Red Sea at the Easter Vigil, why does it make any more sense to include it again during "Ordinary" time?

Is there some mysterious link to the Gospel readings for the day I haven't yet fathomed? Exodous does not make for easy teaching material and left out of context as a somewhat disjointed first reading at Mass seems so pointless.

I have a personal problem with this too. A good five years ago I was involved in the preparing a young woman for Confirmation who was as intelligent and articulate as I was inexperienced. The story of the parting of the Red sea came up in our lessons. It is seen as a prefiguring of baptism. Now I love analysing the Old Testament in this way, seeing how it points to the New, and far be it for me to criticise Chruch Fathers and Doctors but this young woman came up with the following and I remain a little stumped. She said:

This is not right. This is not the infinitely merciful God I want to believe in and grow to love. How can he treat the Egyptians so badly? Yes Pharoah was bad and stubborn but there was no need to rout his forces so completely. These Egyptians had souls, there would be good and bad amongst them, why did he treat them worse than the town of Sodom (at least he let Lot escape from there). What has this to do with baptism?

I had no answer at the time and it has been bugging me ever since.

Here are a few thoughts of my own:

The sons of Israel did not get wet going through the Red Sea, how does this prefigure Baptism? The routing of the Egyptians "just" shows the greatness of God, and greatness must include here "ineffableness".

Surely, the twelve springs at Elim in the next chapter are a better prefiguring of Baptism? God makes a statute for Israel before they get to the springs saying "If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your healer."

I'm left with the uncomfortable feeling that if the parting of the Red Sea is a prefiguring of baptism, then it is the Egyptians who are getting baptised, they certainly died by the power of God, which certainly meant they were unable to do anymore bad things. They would certainly have been aware of the power of God and some of them may have felt contrition for their treatment of the Israelites. Now, for a take on salvation history that might just have met with the approval of this young woman; was it possible then for the some of the Egyptians then to enter Sheol and await the coming of the Lord?

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