Re the Daily Office Readings 4/19/2020

The Readings: Exodus 14:5-22; 1 John 1:1-7; John 14:1-7

Exodus: A paradigmatic deliverance story, also, perhaps, a reflection on the challenge of belief. The Hebrew words for ‘to see’ (rāˀâ) and ‘to fear’ (yārāˀ) are close in sound, and the story employs them from the introduction of the crisis to its resolution (‘to see’: 14:13, 30, 31; ‘to fear’ 14:10, 13, 31). And so the story ends (tomorrow’s reading) with “Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses” (v.31).

That’s the end of that story; it’s more challenging in the middle. The Letter to the Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). I like Jim Wallis’ paraphrase: “Hope means believing in spite of the evidence and then watching the evidence change” (“The Way of Hope,” written in 2015, but equally relevant today).

Program note: Jesus’ words in John come right after Judas’ departure to betray Jesus and Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denials. The soundtrack for Exodus is increasingly dominated by approaching Egyptian army; the soundtrack for John by the approaching soldiers and police.

COVID-19 and fear, both in the air. So I might take some time to enter today’s Exodus reading contemplatively. The Jesuits talk of “composing the place,” asking for God’s help to imagine oneself in the story in as much detail as possible. What do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? What do I feel? What do I taste? Now, the place composed, I ask God to be with me as I let the story play out in my imagination. How will the story play out? What will God and I discover together? (See “Father James Martin: An Introduction to Ignatian Contemplation.)

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