The Flight

Scripture      Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23


                      After the wise men 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.


Matthew’s Gospel presents this mystery of Jesus' early life to bring us to a place where we will find the motivation for "Why must we suffer?" So soon after the joyous silent holy night birth comes an announcement of trouble. Serious trouble for Joseph, Mary and Jesus! The story of this holy family's flight into Egypt challenges us to be ready to face troubles and setbacks in our own families and communities. We may at times question ourselves and God about "Why must we undergo interiorly and exteriorly all that we must undergo in our human and spiritual journeys?" The answer is clearly that suffering empties us and suffering fills us with God's life. There is always a purifying and transforming action happening in times of suffering and duress. Hence, suffering becomes a valuable "spiritual exercise". When we are thrust into a state of intense suffering – be it psychological, moral or physical, we must find God-within for the courage and strength to endure it. Our little egos are stinging. We are humbled and in need of a power greater than ourselves. It is our "get up and go" time. How does one endure this ordeal? We search deeper. We face our inner poverty and wait. This becomes such an important Gospel for us to reflect upon on this Holy Family Sunday. Can each one of us face our troubles this week and see God at-work?


"No sooner were you born than you were being persecuted." Jesus enters the human condition to be one-with-us in all things and almost immediately he is subjected to abuse and hardship from a king who is threatened by his power of selfless loving. All of this is totally unjust, illogical, and unfair. The threat comes from the dictates of someone who holds earthly power. This Herod is very cruel and evil. What a welcome for our God from the human family! Why must the holy family suffer like this? Why did God allow this to happen to them? The paradox lives again. Jesus had the power to destroy his enemies, yet he endured their attacks with divine patience. Jesus had the power to bring him down, yet he chose to show mercy. He and his parents embraced the suffering of this illogical pain and hardship. They went bravely into exile and poverty. They were refugees, driven from their homeland and place of birth. We cannot help but marvel at their patience, gentleness and goodness in suffering this flight into Egypt in the dark passage of the night.


This causes us to reflect upon how we handle similar, even less trying, situations of suffering and personal attack. So often we murmur, complain, rebel, and are full of interior disquiet with all kinds of angry noises running around in our heads. All the old memories of abuse, guilt and blame surface to ward off more of the same crashing in upon us. Our 'woundedness' is close to the surface again and we suffer and cry out for a time of healing and wholeness. With this contemplation on the flight into Egypt, let us pray that we may receive your virtues of gentleness, patience and love for our enemies. May we experience the effects of God's loving providence on our behalf. Help us to trust in God alone during these crisis times. Yes, only God alone suffices as Teresa of Avila prayed!


All the great spiritual masters teach us a wisdom on why suffering serves such a positive and perfective role in the spiritualization process for each one of us. These holy ones remind us that God allows this suffering. He does not will it nor does He directly cause it. But God does permit suffering in our human lives and God does use it positively to effect our growth in wholeness and holiness. In its purifying elements, all suffering empties us of our selfishness and self-centeredness. It makes us go inward. In whatever way God decides, we will be guided, we will have to distance ourselves from those alienating ‘outward forces’ and persons and places that continue to cause us grief and harm. Then will begin a profound and mysterious searching that takes us to our centre where we go within and find the Source of all peace and harmony and balance.  In its transforming elements, all suffering fills us with the qualities of God's very own life so that "as time goes on" we find ourselves responding more and more in the likeness of Christ to these same ‘enemies’ and ‘former persecutors’. Yes, in time, we ‘know’ ourselves to be animated and filled with God’s patience, gentleness, mercy and goodness. This is how PURE LOVE grows in us. It is beautiful to behold! The Letter of James records this truth:


"You will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them 
as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the 
test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results 
so that you will become fully developed, complete, with nothing missing."
(James 1: 2-4)


Our Jesuit founder, Jean-Pierre Médaille in his maxims on patience upholds this same teaching:

        "No matter what disagreeable things happen to you, 
         never see them as obstacles but as profitable and necessary to your daily life. 
       If you consider them as effects of the tender and loving Providence of God, 
        your Father, you will love them tenderly and accept them willingly.
                (Maxim of Perfection 7:3)


Herein lies the way through our troubles. The practice involves careful mindfulness. Rather than respond to suffering, contradictions, setbacks, even persecution with a lot of self-pity and anger at the persons inflicting the abuse, desire to be filled with Jesus' virtue of patience and pure love and see in your present trial - a hidden grace, God-permitted, to bring you to a deeper self-emptying and a fuller participation in God's divine life. "These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of Him who loved us."  (Romans 8:37) 


Father Médaille was well aware that we would all have to pass through one or more "flights into Egypt" in our lifetime. There will come upon us  those traumatic, life-threatening encounters with 'authorities' in our lives that challenge us to fulfill our destiny at whatever the cost. These will surely be times of deadliest peril! In this 'flight' story, Jesus models for us a way through the crisis dealing with personal violence and abuse. "To escape their violence, you chose a way of humility; you had your foster father carry you out to Egypt into a place of exile, where you lived for seven years in extreme poverty."


In this Gospel account we have a model for us to follow. At times in our close relationships, we learn that simply taking distance for a period of time is the solution. When one person moves into a non-physical presence and a non-engagement with those difficult persons around them, there is a solitude that can open up into a deeper awareness. The truth comes to the surface. Our "Egypt’s" can be a healing restorative time and a ‘way-through’ the crisis to a deeper, purer loving relationship. Often in the dysfunctional and destructive relationships that are part and parcel of our wounded humanity, such ‘a separation’ can be the only way to endure persecution. When guided by the Spirit of God, these separations can reach a break-through that is really a restoration in ‘great love’. This takes an incredible strength of character born out of hope and love. Father Medaille, St. Paul and many other holy men and women have been moved by this extravagant inspiration and they cannot help but sing this hymn to God's love:


"Nothing therefore can come between us and the love of Christ, even 
if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food 
and clothes, or being threatened or even attacked... 
For I am certain of this... nothing can ever come between us and 
the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Roman 8:31-39)

There is great rejoicing when spouses, families, parishes and communities reunite after having passed through their ‘seven years in the foreign lands of our Egypts’. Our collective pain becomes healed and we are inwardly freed to return to our 'Nazareth homes' living holy lives in loving-kindness, simplicity and quiet joy. This is truly the Christmas miracle alive throughout our world today. We must believe that everywhere this same Light of Christ still shines upon a people walking in the deep darkness of unconsciousness! Come today, Emmanuel and save us.

Carrying Grace        "Get up and go to Egypt... Remain there until I tell you to go back."                                  



#2 arletteh 2010-12-29 19:42
be able to remain in exile until we are told to "go back. How wondrous a preparation that Joseph and Mary received for this!
#1 arletteh 2010-12-29 19:34
The “flight” of refugees is not the same as a voluntary choice to go into the wilderness .Great danger exists if the refugees do not depart .What fear in one’s heart, mingled with what painful a longing for home .Re-grouping, re-organizing one’s life, adjusting to the strangest circumstances, trying to sustain life, yet to be able to reserve energy to find some meaning in it all, to be in touch with the Spirit, to hear and experience the Spirit’s guidance! When the darkness, the utter exhaustion pulls us down, it is good to know that the God we are called to surrender to is a loving God. For Christians, it is so healing and restoring to know we are not alone, but can surrender ourselves into the Body of Christ, Christ who suffers everything with us. It feels like death, yet, we know Christ rose from the dead, and we will get that call to “lift up your hearts!” Life begins to stir again! Thus energy gradually comes back as we find meaning and direction in our suffering. And we will be able to remain in exile, until we are told to go back .” How wondrous was the preparation that Joseph and Mary received for this!

You must LOGIN to add a comment.