Over the last few weeks, our faith-formation students in grades 1-8 have been exploring the life of Moses in the book of Exodus. In our first lesson, we learned that Moses was born into extremely disadvantaged circumstances. He was a Hebrew slave whose people were oppressed and abused by the Egyptians.
Ironically, the Pharaoh, who was the most powerful person in Egypt at the time, felt threatened by his own slaves. The Hebrew population was growing in number, and fearing that they would revolt and bring an end to his reign, the Pharaoh ordered all male Hebrew infants thrown into the Nile River. The females, obviously being no threat at all, were allowed to continue to live and suffer.
In yet another ironic twist, however, three women played powerful roles in this story – Moses’ mother and sister, who came up with a strategy to hide and protect him; and the Pharaoh’s daughter, who took him in and raised him as her own.
This story of royalty and slaves in ancient Egypt might seem far removed from us, but there are many parallels in our American society today. Every day in this country, children are born into disadvantaged families or they flee here from affliction in other countries. And every day in this county, people in positions of privilege and power fight hard to maintain the status quo, fearing that life as they know it will come to an end if the disadvantaged people outnumber them and upset the power balance.
Thankfully, there are always people working behind the scenes to protect and assist the disadvantaged children among us, just as there were in the story of Moses. Our Catholic Church is filled with caring priests, deacons, sisters and other religious who stand up and speak out on behalf of the poor, minorities and refugees – even when they are criticized or ostracized for doing so.
Many Catholic educators, counselors and social workers toil long hours for low pay to help children rise up out of poverty and backgrounds of addiction, neglect or abuse. In many areas of the country, medical clinics run by Catholic Charities provide free healthcare to underserved and at-risk populations. And of course, there are countless Catholic laypeople who serve as foster parents, CASA workers and in other positions that serve oppressed and suffering children.
So often, we find it hard to connect to scripture stories; but when we dig beneath the surface details of the stories, we will always find that the same sins and social ills that afflicted Biblical characters remain with us today.
The Bible is not a history book that accurately records events that happened at one specific place and time. The Bible is the living story of the human experience.
Baby Moses, floating down the river in his basket, is still present in the world today, as is his desperate mother and his protective sister – as is the Pharaoh’s daughter, who lifted him up out of the river so that he could fulfill his destiny. And of course, the Pharaoh is still here too, trying hard to stay in power.
And I wonder – which one am I?