As ever, the homily at Mass today here in Omaha was a home run. Here are the notes that I jotted down from it and, per my custom, later wove into my prayer-time reflections. The first reading of the Mass was the Passover text from Exodus 11-12.
God commands Moses to have the Israelites eat in a very uncustomary manner. In Exodus 12:11, God says:
This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the Lord.
There is a sense of urgency. The Passover meal is a feast of flight, a celebration that blends fear and hope, life and death. God’s ominous providential power is about to execute judgment on all the gods of Egypt as He prepares to free Israel from the bonds of slavery and lead them into desert where they will learn the meaning of freedom as it relates this liberating covenant-God.
The security of the determined and familiar rhythms of slavery — cruel though they be — will be replaced by the strange and indefinite horizons of the wandering desert God who exacts absolute trust from His covenant partners. Stripped of the din of slave-drivers’ shouts and led into a great silence; stripped of 7-day labor and led into 7th day rest; stripped of flesh-pots and led into fields of manna. The sojourning God leads them from the burden of slavery to the lightness of unfettered liberty to the bonds of covenanted freedom.
The homilist told of time he spent as a chaplain in a prison for men who had committed serious crimes, but were preparing to be released. He would celebrate Mass weekly and about 30 men would come. One man he came to know had had a radical conversion in prison. “He was a big man, looming, not someone you would want to meet in a dark alley.” After his conversion the man, who had only a high school education, developed a ravenous appetite for reading. He asked the chaplain for the “classics” in the spiritual life. The chaplain gave him several, including St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. After completing all of the books he had been given, the man said to the chaplain: “Father, all of these authors use different words, but they really say the same thing: Empty yourself so God can fill you.” Prison can either take everything away from him against his will, or he can just freely give it all away.
We need to be disciples with a sense of urgency, seeking the freedom that is found in God. Stripped of all that binds us from being free to respond to our life’s Passovers, we can begin to allow God to freely act in us so that we might learn to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Look within: Anger. Fear. Mistrust. Unforgiveness. Scrupulosity. Cynicism. Despair. Pride. Laziness. Lust. Greed. Procrastination. Permit God to execute His judgment on all these gods, recalling that God’s judgment is mercy for those who cry out to Him: “Free me, O Lord, from all that holds me from soaring in love to you!”
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. — St. Ignatius of Loyola