The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand on the march – all men – not counting their families. People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves. They baked cakes with the dough which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey. The time that the sons of Israel had spent in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And on the very day the four hundred and thirty years ended, all the array of the Lord left the land of Egypt. The night, when the Lord kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, must be kept as a vigil in honour of the Lord for all their generations.
The Pharisees went out and began to plot against him, discussing how to destroy him.
Jesus knew this and withdrew from the district. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah:
Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved, the favourite of my soul.
I will endow him with my spirit,
and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations.
He will not brawl or shout,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
He will not break the crushed reed,
nor put out the smouldering wick
till he has led the truth to victory:
in his name the nations will put their hope.
Great is his love, love without end.
Some time back, my spiritual director introduced me to a little exercise of writing out my ‘grace history’. It was a particularly difficult time in my life, and I had quite literally thrown myself at the feet of Jesus pleading for any help at all. If Jesus were indeed standing amongst us, you would find me sprawled at His feet. Sitting in the quietude of one of my favourite sanctuaries, face-to-face with my Saviour as He hung upon the wood-carved crucifix, agony and love emanating from His eyes, I squeaked to Him “Show me what to do and I’ll do it. ‘Cos I don’t know what else to do!” That was only the start of some kind of mystery and magic He brought into my life.
We all have a ‘grace history’. It is a little walk through your life, from the very earliest memory you have to where you are today – only that you pause and reflect on the moments, episodes, people or things encountered, in which you felt the presence of God in your life. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with this exercise when I first heard it. But I promised Him that I would listen; and so I sat at the austere wooden desk, in my bare but comforting room at the retreat centre, and diligently got to writing. As I wrote, I started to peel away from my narrow vision; I stood outside of myself, watching the amazing strokes that His hand was painting in my life – and the lives of those intertwined with mine. Many things that I had overlooked, barely considered.
These meandering paths and lives of the Israelites who were enslaved, then driven out of Egypt, and finally rescued, took four hundred and thirty years to unfold. Five lifetimes, in our day. Can any of us wait that long to see the daylight break into the present turmoil we face? I doubt it. But that’s not what God is doing either! He is not holding us hostage from joy and peace, love and fulfillment, until our last days! Contrary to that, His grace is new every morning.
Sometimes we just have to withdraw, like Jesus did in the gospel reading today. He withdrew from the town where He knew snares were being laid. Not because He was afraid, but that pulling away from the chaos enabled Him to seek out a solitary space to reconnect with his Father. Did Jesus cherish the memories of His life and ministry? I’m sure He did! I am certain the private moments with his Father, He remembered every face that He saw, touched, healed, spoke to, ate with, lived with, hugged, and kissed. Even the random bodies that jostled around Him, especially the woman who touched but only the hem of His cloak in faith. He knew each and every one of them intimately. He saw them one; He saw them all.
Writing my ‘grace history’ was finally seeing with a sort of bird’s eye view, the way God had always been looking down at me. The way He saw each and every moment of my life, and reached in to touch me, hold me, carry me, hug me, kiss me, and nurse me back to life.
Our God is the God of all ages, the alpha and the omega, beginning and the end – a true mystery we must accept that we will never wrap our minds around! In today’s first reading, it says, “the night when the Lord kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, must be kept as a vigil in honour of the Lord for all their generations” (Ex 12:42). And the gospel echoes, “in his name the nations will put their hope” (Mt 12:21). It recalls Wednesday and Thursday’s readings when God repeatedly tells Moses who He is, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” I very much wanted that the Lord who did those wonders with the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses… Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Elizabeth, Mary… would do the same with mine.
When we take time out to write out and contemplate our personal ‘grace history’, we are celebrating the intricate woven details and honouring the God who makes our lives possible. It is a beautiful testimony to your worth and purpose – that no other single human person could stand witness to. In the depths of our meandering experiences, we will find patterns and clues, reminders and keys, to our great thirst for meaning and fulfillment in our lives. This exercise gave me more than what I asked for. He revealed more generously about His purpose for the talents and skills He’d given me; He showed me that I truly had nothing to be afraid of if I recalled the goodness He’d already shown me; He reminded me that I was passionately loved.
One lifetime is enough to witness the great love and goodness of our Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11).
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: We pray for all who are going through trials and turmoils in their lives. May they recall the goodness of the Lord in days past, as sustenance for days ahead.
Thanksgiving: Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.