Tony van Vuuren
This weekend we are celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt; the Patronal Feast of the Archdiocese of Cape Town.
Through the Gospel reading we revisit Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus in Bethlehem; but with the emphasis on the Holy Family having to travel the sorrowful road of exile, in search of refuge in a foreign country.
As Joseph sets out for Egypt, the fear and anxiety he must feel for his family must cause him great stress. Where are they to live, how can he support them and how is he to protect them? The Holy Family is put in a precarious and vulnerable situation. They are victims of someone else’s greed for power. They have been stripped of their dignity and identity. In many ways they became a ‘non’ people. A truly refugee family.
Unfortunately, the reality of refugee people is still very much part of today’s world. Millions of families still encounter this sad reality. Almost every day the television and the newspapers carry news about refugees who flee from hunger, from war, from other grave dangers, in search of security and a dignified life for themselves and their families.
“In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants do not always meet with true welcome, respect, appreciation of the values which they bring with them.” Xenophobic attacks still take place on a regular basis right here in Cape Town.
“So, when we reflect on the Holy Family of Nazareth in the moment that they become refugees, we think about the present day refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation, who are victims of human trafficking and slave labor. But let us also think about the other “exiles”: the “hidden exiles,” those exiles that can be within families in our community: the elderly, for example, who are sometimes treated as an inconvenience.” The children, who are abused or neglected. Often an indicator of how a family is doing is how the children and old people in the family are treated.
“The flight into Egypt caused by Herod’s threats shows us that God is present where man is in danger, He is there where man suffers, there where he flees, where he experiences rejection and abandonment; but God is also there where man dreams, where he hopes to return to freedom in his homeland, plans and decides about his life and dignity and those of his family.”
Our reflection on the Holy Family in exile lets us also be drawn by the simplicity of the life they come to lead, on their return to Nazareth, for the next thirty years. No matter what the horrors and uncertainty of the time in Egypt were, the interactions among Joseph, Mary and Jesus, as he grew older, must have remained respectful and loving. It is an example that is good for our families; because whatever the circumstances, when the tough times come, and indeed they will, the shouldering of the problems can be done by all with love.
As well as for all families; it helps us a parish community here at St Michael’s and within the Archdiocese to become a community of love and reconciliation in which tenderness, mutual help and reciprocal forgiveness are experienced.
Pope Francis recently asked us “to remember the 3 key phrases for a life of peace and joy in the family: excuse me, thank you, I’m sorry. In a family when you are not intrusive but say “excuse me;” when you are not self-centered but say “thank you;” and when you realize that you have done something wrong and you say “I’m sorry,” in that family there is peace and joy.” He then had the people gathered in St Peter’s square repeat the 3 phrases: excuse me, thank you, I’m sorry. He went on to say; “I would also like families to be aware of their importance in the Church and in society. The proclamation of the Gospel, in fact, passes first of all through families to then reach the different spheres of daily life.”
If the message of Christ, in all its richness finds a home within us, we cannot be indifferent or ignore the hurt of others. The Gospel message is: You must love one another as I have loved you. Jesus came as Saviour of the World but his message and his presence was particularly directed to those who are wounded in life so as to give them hope and restore their dignity.
Celebrating this feast of Our Lady let us fervently invoke Mary the mother of Jesus and our Mother to enlighten, to comfort and to guide our families.
We are told Mary allowed her life to be directed by God; trusting Him without question. Mary pondered all these things in her heart; treasuring and reflecting on the meaning of God’s word. As from the first moment of her appearance at the Annunciation, Mary is the model disciple who hears and follows God’s word, even amid the fears and uncertainty she must have faced on so many occasions.
Unlike Mary though, we often ask; Why, God? Why me? I’ve been good! Have not many of us asked this very question when trials and sufferings come into our lives? No matter how much we hear the Word of God telling us we must take up our crosses and follow him; that he is always there for us; we still ask, WHY ME?;
Such is the frailty of our faith.
When we are tempted to question God let us consider the crosses and sorrows carried by the one whom God loved the most; Mary his mother. The Flight into Egypt is the 2nd of the seven sorrows of Mary. It may be difficult to understand how readily Mary, God’s Masterpiece, accepted without question the sorrows that she was faced with. Can we do that? Can we kneel at the foot of the cross at any time and accept and believe that Christ is our redemption? And then getup and carry our cross?
Let us try to imitate Mary; talking to our Lord, conversing like two people in love, about everything that happens to us, even the most insignificant incidents. Nor should we forget that we have to weigh those words and reflections, consider their value and see them with the eyes of faith, in order to discover the will of God; and if our faith is weak we must turn to Mary. St John tells us that it was because of the miracle at the marriage feast at Cana, which Christ performed at his Mother’s request that his disciples first learned to believe in him. Mary is always interceding with her Son, so that he may attend to our needs and show himself to us in such a way that we can say “You are the Son of God.”
Our Lady of The Flight into Egypt: pray for us.
Ref: Pope Francis.