Fr. Francis Scaria
In the Bible, Egypt symbolises a place of temporary safety and protection, but that is not a permanent abode for God’s people. According to Gen 12, Abraham went to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. There he had to feign his wife to be his sister because he was afraid that the Egyptians would be attracted by the beauty of Sarah and kill him to take her. The Bible does not say that Abraham went to Egypt at the instructions of the Lord. He probably decided that on his own. He never felt secure in Egypt. Later he returned to Canaan.
Gen 26 tells us that Isaac too experienced a famine and he too set out for Egypt. When he reached Gerar and was proceeding towards Egypt, God warned him and told him not to go to Egypt. He listened to the warning and dwelt in Gerar. Yet he faced a similar situation with his wife as in the case of Sarah. He had to feign her to be his sister.
God had in his plan that Joseph be sold to the Midianites who will in turn sell him in Egypt. Later when Joseph became the ruler of Egypt, he wanted his father Jacob and brothers to come to Egypt. Jacob was afraid of going to Egypt, God appeared to him and said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again” (Gen 46:3-4). God accompanied the Israelites to Egypt and back.
The Holy Family too had gone to Egypt for a while for the protection of the child Jesus. They did not stay there long, but returned to stay in Nazareth. In that sense, the world in which we live is like Egypt. We are not to be here permanently. We need to leave this world and reach our promised land, heaven. If we are able to understand this truth, we shall not store up for ourselves wealth in this temporary shelter “where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:13). We shall instead store up for ourselves wealth “in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt 6:14).
Jesus reminded his disciples that they did not belong to this world (cf. Jn 15:19). In His High Priestly Prayer Jesus says, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (Jn 17:16). In Rom 12:1-2, St. Paul tells the believers, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect”. St. James goes to the extent of saying, “Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (Jam 4:4). According to St. Peter, we are aliens and exiles in this world (cf. 1 Pet 2:11)
St. John too has clear teachings regarding this. “Do not love the world or the things of the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world – the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches – comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” (1Jn 2:15-17)
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