When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed toward the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
The Israelites are having second thoughts. Despite risking everything for freedom, after seeing great signs and wonders through Moses, they have reached a point of no return and now the full force of their enslavement is bearing down.
It is amazing how easily, how quickly the richness and vibrancy of faith can drain from our cupped hands. With near certainty, we can expect our worst attachments to revisit, even after we are fully dedicated to the liberation God offers us in faith.
But God is unphased by these dark forces. He might even be extra motivated by them. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.”
Picture those things that are most scary, most intense, and most likely to bring us to abandon what is true and good. Can you see the chariots? Ego, addiction, power, anger, selfishness, racism, greed, vanity, insecurity, pettiness… Yeah, those things. God intends to flat out massacre them, to make a mess of our scariest temptations and for their defeat to burn as a persisting flame of glory within us. “Stand your ground …”
—Sean Agniel is ending a term as the provincial’s assistant for secondary and pre-secondary education for the U.S. Central and Southern Province. This summer he will begin working at St. Louis University High School as the advancement chief of staff.
“…Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.”
—First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius Loyola as paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ