The Flight into Egypt. I look around my chaotic studio, books and journals, art tablets, pens, markers, paints and brushes stacked in piles awaiting new places to live. We have been remodeling, and I had promised I would do a “death cleaning”. This is a description given to me by a Swedish friend for the act of getting rid of many of the things my children will have to shovel out of here after I pass away. There is still a lot of stuff, a whole lot. It’s all necessary, I claim defensively. Or at least precious.
So, thinking of today’s readings, I wonder at a young man and woman willing to uproot themselves, to take only what they could carry on their backs and to go somewhere totally foreign and new, just on the basis of warnings in a dream. Sure, dreams probably had a lot more weight back then than they do now, but even so. I’m sure it wasn’t the usual way to respond.
They carried with them the precious gift to all of humanity that was God incarnate. They brought their baby, soft of skin, easily wounded, utterly dependent.
How many immigrant families have crossed the wastelands like this, sacrificing everything for the sake of a precious child? My own ancestors did. They were Germans living in a village in Russia. Farmers, they left land, tools, animals – a whole way of life – in the middle of the night. They took only what they could carry on their persons. They did this because their son was about to be prescripted into the Russian army.
They had relatives in Arkansas. Their relatives had neighbors who were angry that new immigrants were coming to the neighborhood. Did Joseph or Mary have relatives in Egypt, I wonder? Perhaps they did. Or perhaps they relied only on the kindness of strangers.
How do we, as strangers, measure up when it comes to supporting desperate people who are fleeing from impossible situations? What is our compassion toward those protecting their precious children by running – those like the Holy Family?
I am here today, an American accustomed to a good way of life, because my ancestors were willing to drop everything and go. They were willing to leave behind their precious possessions and flee into the night. They successfully made the perilous journey. Many others over the centuries have not. Lost at sea or in the deserts they had to cross or on the streets of inhospitable cities, they perished. And the valuable cargo of life they brought with them in the form of their children perished as well. How many precious gifts from God are extinguished that way?
Looking at my clutter of stuff, I offer a little prayer of thanks to my resourceful forebears. I resolve to cherish and protect the unique “me” that is God’s gift to the world. And I resolve to be a helping hand, however I can be, to the immigrants who make the perilous journey these days – the immigrants for whom this is Egypt, their safe haven against the forces of destruction from which they have fled.