20 July, 2013. Saturday of the Fifteenth Week
Exod 12:37ff. Israel, a crowd of mixed ancestry, departs from Egypt; a yearly night of vigil is to commemorate this act of deliverance.
Matt 12:14ff. While the Pharisees plot to kill him, Jesus continues to cure the sick, fulfilling the Isaian prophecy about God’s silent servant.
First Reading: Exodus 12:37-42
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.
Gospel: Matthew 12:14-21
The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
Our racial attitudes
Today’s text from Exodus invites us to learn to respect racial difference. Despite the stringent separation of the chosen people from the non-chosen Egyptians, foreigners continued to have a role in God’s plans for his people. First there is an interesting phrase about Israel’s departure from Egypt . It states that a crowd of “mixed ancestry” also went up with them. Israel was not to put too high a value on purity of racial origin. The presence of foreigners within them is something they share with other oppressed peoples. It was “the smallest of all nations” that God chose, to manifest his love and fidelity (Deut 7:7). If we wish to embrace the privilege of being God’s elect people, called to be his very own, we need in turn to embrace kindliness, compassion and a healthy humility in face of today’s multi-ethnic society.
St Matthew quotes Isaiah about the Suffering Servant. The apostolate of Jesus is well described by this passage, written during the Babylonian exile. Its message was rejected in his own day, as its attitude towards the gentiles seemed too mild, even hopeful for their salvation. Jesus is described as… “my servant whom I have chosen, my loved one in whom I delight… He will not contend nor cry out… The bruised reed he will not crush… In his name the gentiles will find hope.” If we disregard our neighbour in time of sickness and trouble, we do not deserve the name of Christian, for, like Jesus we are called to cure and heal, quietly, without ostentation. We cannot disregard the outsider without being called to account by God.
As we open our hearts to people of mixed ancestry, according to the example of Jesus, we will be apostles of hope, proclaiming hope not just for others but also for ourselves. In many ways, others can teach us how to be God’s chosen people.