This book is not intended to be a course in religious education, but rather an insightful approach to relating the gospel readings into our everyday lives. By sharing the author's experiences and how they correlate to those of Moses, one may find it easier and more helpful to put their own life experiences into perspective with the teachings of the bible. If the reader finds one sentence, paragraph or chapter that is beneficial, then this project will not have been in vain. The author would then most certainly consider it blessing.
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Walking with Moses
Reflections on The Journey
By John J. Marquis
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2016 John J. Marquis
All rights reserved.
Now a certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, who conceived and bore a son. Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket, daubed it with bitumen and pitch, and putting the child in it, placed it among the reeds on the river bank. His sister stationed herself at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
Pharaoh's daughter came down to the river to bathe, while her maids walked along the river bank. Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it. On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying. She was moved with pity for him and said, "It is one of the Hebrews' children." Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?" "Yes, do so," she answered. So the maiden went and called the child's own mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you." The woman, therefore took the child and nursed it. When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, who adopted him as her son and called him Moses; for she said, "I drew him out of the water." (Ex. 2:1–10)
A. LO! A BABY CRYING!
The interplay of light and shadow on the bulrushes played tricks with the princess' eyes. A papyrus basket! A mirage? No! The muffled sound was real. With a wave of the hand, she sent her maid to fetch the object. And lo, a baby boy in a basket, crying! An edict of death on his head! A young, frightened girl playing sentinel in the distance! One can imagine how terrified the baby must have felt. Too young for words or self expression, but not too young to feel the terror of his smallness, the baby boy cried.
Every reader can identify with the anguish of this tiny baby, clinging tenuously to its fragile hold on life. A scared, helpless child lives inside each one of us. The story of Moses begins in us where we are most vulnerable and frightened and says, "Trust God." God reigns. Moses survived. We will survive.
Every child knows it's body can feel pain. At some point every child discovers its body can also die. It can break or burn, drown in water or smash on the ground, freeze in the snow or smother from lack of air. It can be shot, maimed, poisoned or dismembered. Anxiety and dread stalk the human being, but for the most part, mothers and fathers hold the terror at bay. Since no child can live comfortably with the magnitude of the world around it, it entrusts mom and dad with the task of taming and subduing the fearsome mysteries of life. The projection of magic power onto the parents shields the child from primal fears and enables it to meet life with renewed equanimity. Mom and dad make the child feel safe - but only up to a point. Anxiety about losing one's parents can still lurk. Fear of losing parental love and protection can still engulf the young psyche or be exploited by insecure parents to keep control of the child. Still, most children learn to dampen the fires of terror and come to trust in the protecting power of mom and dad.
In reality, mom and dad do not have the power projected upon them by the frightened child. At certain unguarded moments, the terrifying reality of human existence penetrates the shield of human denial. Such moments buckle the knees and inflict terror on the soul. After reading an article in Readers Digest many years ago about a group of US military personnel running through a wall of fire to escape a burning building, I was stricken with terror at the thought of having a similar experience. I knew there was nowhere to go but through the fire, if the building I lived in at the time ever caught fire. The experience tore open a hole in the repression that usually protected me such anxiety. Normally, we can defend against such moments by repression. We also give undue and surprisingly unexamined power to state, church and other institutions to give ourselves a sense of protection, but in the end, we will still have to kneel before Mystery.
In the story of Moses, God reaches out to us, touches our anxieties with love and offers us great promise. The story of God's provident care for one person means that God watches lovingly over each and every person. If God chooses one person, God chooses every person. Trust God! What about people who don't survive? People whom tragedy does overcome? People who die out of due time? The message still: trust God! Death is an illusion. Our way of looking creates tragedies. "... the sufferings of the present are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us." (Rm 8:18) Neither death or any other reality can separate us from the love God has poured out on us through Moses and the one he foreshadowed, Christ Jesus. Trust God!
These truths were the only thing that could free me from the panic and anxiety that the Readers Digest article opened up in me. I realized that life had never given me a situation that I did not have the God given ability to deal with. I chose to trust that God, who had enabled me to cope with the experiences of my life up to that moment, would continue to do so. I realized and accepted that, other than normal precautions, I had no control over whether a fire would ever sweep through my living quarters or not. Once I acknowledged these truths to myself, my panic subsided and has never returned.
B. BRINGINGUP MOSES
Moses had two mothers. The Hebrew woman, Jochebed, gave birth to him and, thanks to the artful arrangement of her daughter, nursed him. Pharaoh's daughter adopted him, gave him the Egyptian name, Moses, and reared him in Pharaoh's household. Conscious of the fate awaiting her male child, Jochebed kept him alive by not keeping him for herself. With ardent love and great faith she entrusted him to God's providence and the bulrushes of the Nile river. Pharaoh's daughter, who found the child, reared him Egyptian and schooled him in ways of the ruling class. The adult Moses would later be identified by women at the well in Midian as an Egyptian. (Ex 2:19)
Jochebed visualized graphically what would happen to her son if she kept him for herself, so she let go that he might live. Her action frames and sharpens focus on the universal truth that the mother, who possesses her child for her own needs, acts destructively against the very child she seems to love. On the surface, doting attentiveness appears deeply loving; at the core it is clearly selfish and a child knows intuitively that it is not receiving love. It hears the words, "I love you," but feels used and manipulated. Possessiveness carves a hole in the heart of a child's personality, where confusion and resentment fester. A more integrated mother receives her child as a gift from God and, ultimately, surrenders it with love, as did Jochebed, to God and its own calling.
The Egyptian princess, who adopted Moses, saved his life. Surely, she loved him, yet, she could never impart to a Hebrew child its rightful identity. A child develops a sense of who it is from the way its mother holds and beholds it. It sees itself reflected in her eyes and gestures, senses its worth in the warmth or lack of it in her expression, forms emotional judgments about itself from the tone of her voice. She is the primary mirror in which her child comes to know itself. Moses, growing up in Pharaoh's household, could not but absorb an Egyptian point of view. He came to see life around him from the bias of those in power.
Something of both Jochebed and the Egyptian princess inhabits every mother. No mother is perfectly whole. Every mother recognizes the individuality of her child and, yet in human weakness, relates to her child out of her own needs, sometimes more so, sometimes less. Her unfinished needs, whether operative consciously or unconsciously, can produce long-lasting, deleterious consequences within the child. The mother may want her child to be what she never was or expect it to atone for some hidden shame of hers. Whether explicit or implicit, expectations such as these script a child along paths that alienate it from its own truth.
Catholic Tradition has held that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the only mother so preserved from the effects of sin that she received her child totally as gift from God. God graced Mary alone to be true mother all the time. God freed her from conscious and unconscious needs to mold her son into something other than what he was in his own right. Mary even received her son's name, Jesus, from the Angel Gabriel. (Lk 2:21) In reverence and awe, Mary pondered the mystery of her son's being. She did not try to squeeze the mystery of her child into patterns of comprehension more compatible with her own way of thinking.
Mary taught her son, Jesus, the deepest meaning of motherhood and he shared that with us in the Gospel. On one occasion a woman from the crowd cried out to Jesus "Blest is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" "No!" Jesus replied, Blest are they who hear the word of God and keep it." (Lk. 11:27–28) Jesus is the Word of God. From the moment of his conception, Mary heard the Word of God, which he was. No other word. She embraced the Word uttered by the Father. She cherished it and held it close to her heart. She pondered the mystery of that word. She never imposed her own word; rather she allowed Jesus' life to unfold according to God's word. (Lk. 1:38)
C. WHO IS MY MOTHER?
Each person is a word uttered by God, that reveals the Creator in some unique manner. "The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name." (Is 49:1) Those who hear the word that I am, behold and hold that word in truth, call it forth, are mother to me. They give me life, nurture my spirit in truth. They set me free from false words that bind, condemn, accuse, mislead or discount the word that I am. On one occasion, when Jesus was teaching a large crowd, his mother and brothers, who were looking for him, interrupted. On being told of their arrival, Jesus surprised the assembly by his response, '"Who are my mother and my brothers?' He looked at those seated around him and concluded, 'These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.'" (Mk. 3:33–34) Wow! Those who act in harmony with God's will give life to Jesus and are mother to him. God willed to mother Jesus into fuller life through his disciples and all those who do the divine will.
Who is my mother? To whom do I give power to shape and form my life? Who calls me into the deeper truths of my being? Those who do God's will give me life. They awaken what is truest and most wholesome within me. Those who do not do God's will diminish and dishearten me. Which voices do I listen to? I have a choice. I can determine the voices to which I give heed.
In an imperfect world we all have imperfect mothers. Pharaoh's daughter reflected back to Moses a flawed image of himself, but God loved Moses through her. In her pity for the Hebrew child, she became an instrument of God's providence. By saving the child's life, she gave him opportunity to mature and discover the full measure of his inner calling. Moses would one day reject the values she embraced, but would always be thankful for the chance she gave him to fulfill his destiny. Parents, no matter how good or bad, give their child opportunity to come to full life in heaven. They give their child possibility of a destiny beyond anything it can hope for or imagine.CHAPTER 2
On one occasion, after Moses had grown up, when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor, he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen. Looking about and seeing no one, he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting! So he asked the culprit, "Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?" But he replied, "Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?" Then Moses became afraid and thought, "The affair must certainly be known."
Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put him to death. But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian. Ex.2:ll–15
A. MOSES SAW
Children see growing up as their goal in life, but real growth occurs after one grows up. So, one day "after Moses had grown up," he witnessed the forced labor of the Hebrews and saw in particular the striking of a slave. We might wonder where Moses had been prior to that day. The Hebrews bore the burden of enslavement throughout Moses' life. Beatings of slaves were common. What made this experience different from any other?
Awakening. Moses woke up to new reality. We all perceive the world through the filter of childhood experience. Moses, adopted and reared by Pharaoh's daughter, was steeped in the mindset of the ruling class. His lot differed greatly from that of a common Hebrew. He had experienced the rewards, not the cruelty of slavery. He had absorbed a way of thinking and perceiving endemic to the ruling class. Then, in a flash he saw reality in a new way – the Hebrews were his brothers and sisters. What befell them struck at him, too. He recognized the injustice of what he saw.
Illusions grip with great power, because they make us comfortable. They hide the terror of being human. They give human beings ability to function on automatic pilot like a jet aircraft and provide for an economy of effort at living. The pin prick of new truth disrupts our sense of stability so we resist it mightily, sometimes with a tenacity that defies all reason and a ferocity that sends prophets to their death. Yet, truth too has amazing staying power. It doesn't leave us alone. Once implanted it turns quietly in the subliminal recesses of our psyche waiting to ambush us in a moment of awakening.
Moses had experienced such mothering from Jochebed that he could not live compatibly with illusion forever. He possessed a homing instinct for truth that did not allow him to hide indefinitely in the comfort of Pharaoh's household. In a moment of sudden awareness and impulsive action, he altered his destiny irrevocably. Like others who hunger for wholeness, he embarked on a solitary, seemingly foolish journey.
B. BEING SEEN
Moses was careful to slay the Egyptian only after "looking about and seeing no one." We understand his precaution, but it contrasts sharply with the Moses of a later day who would confront Pharaoh with the strength of his vision of God in the burning bush. Authentic action on behalf of God flows out of how one sees, not how one is seen, out of vision rather than appearance. Moses was energetic in his desire to right what was wrong, but his action did not flow from the deep place within him where God's spirit abides.
The distinction between seeing and being seen is easy to comprehend, but the task of operating out of vision rather than for appearance sake is difficult to master. Self conscious persons offer the most obvious example of how people confuse being seen with seeing. Such people, having been deeply shamed by those in charge of their earliest years, constantly search for their identity in the eyes of others. In a sense they have given up their own eyes and see through the eyes of others. In doing this, they forfeit their ability to look critically at their environment. Instead they project their sense of being criticized onto others and continue to feel judged and condemned, even when that is not the case. A client once said to me, after about a year of counseling, "I see your eyes today, for the first time. And they are not judging me." It took her a year to use her own eyes instead of mine and when she did look, what she saw was much more bearable than what she had imagined.
Many attempts to help others are subtly poisoned by the failure to notice that one is focused on how one's help is received. People will say, "I have tried so hard and I haven't gotten any result." These people appear to be acting out of vision when in reality they reach out to others in order to receive approval. They fall into the trap of Narcissus. Narcissus did not recognize that the image he loved in the water was a reflection of himself. He was frustrated because every time he reached out to the image, it disappeared. He thought he was cursed by the gods. The narcissistic illusion lies in the pool of everyone's unconscious and those who seek to help others need to be wary of its presence.
Usually, we do not notice the narcissistic trap until repercussions develop that show us we have already succumbed to its deceit. People reject our help, we bog down in the quagmire of mutual manipulation, we wear out from the lack of return and deplete the meager resources of our ability to give, we grow resentful at not being appreciated. Reality has set in, but it has not let us down. It has caught us in our lie and invites awakening and conversion.
At this point we can blame other people for our problems. We can choose to flee as Moses did. Surprisingly the choice to flee may prove more apt than it would seem at first glance. It may give us the space we need for conversion. It might be the most realistic response to our situation - we just don't belong. Flight, even flight from God, can lead to the discovery of him, because often we are fleeing a false image of God in the first place. Our very flight can lead to a more genuine encounter with the living God as it did with Moses. "Where can I go from your Spirit? From your presence where can I flee?" cries the psalmist. "If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me." (Ps. 139: 7–10)
Excerpted from Walking with Moses by John J. Marquis. Copyright © 2016 John J. Marquis. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1 Fragile Beginning, 1,
2 Awakening, 10,
3 Personal Integration, 19,
4 Original Sin, 30,
5 Seeing God, 47,
6 Choosing Freedom, 56,
7 The Name Of God, 66,
8 Poverty Of Spirit, 84,
9 Connected In The Spirit, 92,
10 Purification, 98,
11 Journey To The Promisedland, 113,
12 Contemplative Stillness, 124,
13 Bread For Today, 129,
14 One In The Body, 137,
15 Individuation, 147,
16 Waiting In Darkness, 155,
17 The Law Of God, 162,
18 Conversion From Idealism, 181,
19 Intimacy With God, 190,
20 Radiance Of The Saints, 197,
21 Atonement, 207,
22 Lifting Up What Enslaves, 215,
23 Prophetic Vision, 222,
24 A New Creation, 233,
Author Shares A Life-Changing Experience, 241,