Monday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
You Have Only to Keep Still…
Readings: Exodus 14:5-18; Exodus 15:1bc-2, 3-4, 5-6; Matthew 12:38-42
There’s an advertisement that one often sees in some cinemas. Various letters of the alphabet are mingling on the screen when a fire suddenly breaks out. Screams are heard and all the letters rush for the exit, which gets jammed in the process, until someone whistles and gets everyone to file through the exit in an orderly fashion. The message is clear enough. When there is an emergency, do not panic! Keep calm… Do what is necessary… Easier said than done, of course.
We encounter a similar situation in the first reading today. Here there is a serious emergency of another sort. Imagine what it must be like for the poor defenseless Israelites, waking up one morning to find a horde of bloodthirsty Egyptian charioteers, horsemen and soldiers descending upon them. Is it any wonder that they begin to panic? They blame Moses for rescuing them from slavery. Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness! Yet, in the midst of their panic, God offers a word of encouragement so incredible as to seem almost ridiculous. In the face of certain death, God actually tells the people to have no fear, to keep still, to do what is necessary… Which is what Moses does. He follows God’s instructions to the letter and pioneers for the Israelites a way across the waters of the Red Sea.
There are no Egyptians breathing down our necks. But we do, from time to time, have to face various emergencies of our own. Sometimes there are people making difficult demands on us. At other times the struggle is with painful feelings that might suddenly ensnare us. Whatever the crisis, don’t we sometimes find ourselves reacting with the same panic that afflicts the Israelites? And isn’t God’s response often the same? Don’t panic… Keep calm… Do what is necessary…
We know it’s far from easy to put this advice into practice: when things go very wrong, to do what we can and to trust that God has the situation under control, even if we don’t. Perhaps what might help us to do so is to recall and to recognize the signs of God’s presence and action in our lives, the very signs that the Pharisees in today’s gospel seem so oblivious to. We should like to see a sign from you, they ask Jesus, thus demonstrating their blindness to the One who, by his life, death and rising, becomes the sign of God’s undying love for us.
Who are the Egyptians in our lives? How are we being invited to keep still today?