"The liberation of Israel in the Exodus is the beginning of the history of the people of Israel as a political community— a commonality organized for purposeful action in history. Yet, as the Israelites will discover in their desert wanderings, there is far more to their liberation than the defeat of their oppressors and their own national independence. The freedom for which Israel has been set free is not just political; it has spiritual and moral dimensions. Israel is to become a community of true worship and a righteous nation. And that is a major challenge. For more than four hundred years, Israel was enslaved in Egypt. Over four centuries, people in slavery develop a lot of bad habits: the habits of being slaves. Those habits will bedevil Israel in her wilderness wanderings. And because the Exodus paradigm is, in truth, a paradigm of the entire human condition, those same habits bedevil us." (Weigel, George (2013-10-29). Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches (Kindle Locations 572-578). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.)
If all goes well this Lent, I want to make the Station Churches in Rome this year by book from home here in Bern. I'll miss the early morning walk, Rome's biting dampness at most times of year except summer, the edifying experience of sharing the pilgrimage with eager young people doing their best for the King of the World. Even so, I hope reading the short daily reflection focused on Rome's saints and martyrs as companions on the way to Cross and Resurrection will bear fruit in my life as well.
The above passage from George's Thursday after Ash Wednesday meditation reminded me of one of Hillaire Beloc's "hobby horses" in the social sphere which has very much to do with resignation to servitude in exchange for creature comforts or, as it is called most often, a steady job and social security. One of George's priorities in today's piece is to befriend us with constant Church teaching, using Israel's forty years in the desert, about the time and effort needed to shake bad habits, to free us from slavery to sin. The Israelites' yearning for the "flesh pots of Egypt... for the leeks and the melons" as an illustration of the death-dealing attraction of idolatry is not far from Belloc's disdain of a capitalism or socialism which deprives ordinary folk of any measure of self-determination or self-expression in exchange for TV, chips and an annual vacation.
In this sense, today's Gospel from Luke 9:22-25 hit home hard:
"Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’"
Since jousting with windmills is definitely not my style, I guess I may have to resign myself to continuing the quieter life of study and prayer which has always been mine. God knows His time. May the Lenten call of the Loving Father to encounter Him in the sparsity and silence of the desert soon touch His people's heart!