The Epiphany of Our Lord
"...Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
Get up and flee....!
I wonder if Joseph and Mary expected anything like this when they consented to the plan of God and received into their hearts and life him whom the angel called, son of God, king and saviour? The Christ child, barely welcomed into the world is thrust into the life of an exile, joining with his family the ranks of the persecuted, the hunted, the immigrant.
Surrounded by darkness they depart the land, family , culture and life they have known on a journey to a future which is unclear and filled with uncertainty. Yet, even as we ponder their distress, the solidarity of God incarnate with our own experience of uprootedness and loss is a source of wonder and comfort. He knows what is like to be rejected, threatened, a stranger, a newcomer, foreign and unwanted. Because he understands, we dare approach him with confidence seeking grace in our own times of need.
The flight of the Holy Family, in the middle of the night, to a land not their own is something many in our parish and around the world can relate to. Persecution for political, religious, ideological and a multitude of reasons is part and parcel of the human experience, even in the 21st century! It is a reality that, as Christians, we can neither, afford to ignore, nor allow others to do so! Our Baptismal covenant promises which pledge us, to; seek justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being , make the image of the fleeing family a call to prayer, mission and advocacy for those in a similar plight.
Scripture also presents this imagery of journey to us as a picture of our very lives. We are sojourners says the writer of Hebrews, pilgrims in a land not our own! We are in this world but are foreigners to it, says Jesus. In a certain sense we too have been called on a journey, get up and flee!. Abraham was called so by God who asked that he leave behing "land and family..." to go to the place where he would show him. His descendants Jacob and Isaac inherited the same promises and journey as pilgrims seeking a city traveling in a land not their own.
Reflection on this story also allows us to realize that, difficult as it was, the flight to Egypt in the dark of night was illuminated by the presence of God, the company of angels and a holy purpose; keeping alive the dreams and greatest gift of God! There are times in our lives where the call of the angel to Joseph ..."flee" is the very provision of God for our blessing and peace.
Consider these examples from Scripture and history;
* Moses flees the anger of his Egyptian hosts, seeking refuge among shepherds.
* God fearing Lot caught in the judgement of a wicked city is visited by angels and instructed ..."flee to the mountains lest you perish..." It was in his escaping the cities of the plain that salvation and safety was found for those he loved.
* Rebecca cousels her youngest son in dispute with his brother to "...flee to my brothers house..." so he would be protected from sure danger.
* Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, recounts the flight of the Christians in Jerusalem, prior to the destruction of the city brought about by Roman legions. Christians felt led by the prophecy of Jesus whic we read in Matthew 24..."let those in Judea , flee to the mountains..."
For us similar admonitions are pertinent;
For young men seeking a life of purity, Salomon, wisest of men advises; "flee from the seductress..." (Proverbs 7)
For the young and old alike; "flee the uncontrolled passions of youth and seek God..." 2 Timothy 2:22
For those beset by temptation; "flee from temptation" (1 Corinthians 6:18). Seldom are we as strong as we think when tempted. Avoiding the ocassion of sin seems to be the very best advise.. and when caugt in it flee. God promises always to leave some door open, some way out so we can escape from circunstances which would lead us away from his will.
For all seeking intimacy with God; "flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14). In our very complicated world sometimes it is difficult to establish priorities which allow us to keep our worship fervent and a healthy intimacy with God. Flee from things that could take the place in your life that belongs to God alone.
"...Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt..." is the advise of the angel to Joseph, thrusting the Holy Family into an unkown future, full of uncertainties but also full of hope. Hope for the gift and promises of God, hope for the fulfillment of God's dreams and purposes for the world.
May we heed these words as each is invited to receive and treasure in their own lives the Christ, the son of God.