Fleeing off to Egypt to keep Baby Jesus safe
To Joseph, the birth of Baby Jesus means, as for every first-time father, a radical life change. Even though Jesus is his surrogate son only, nothing will ever be the same. Because of the explanation of the angel, Joseph does know this Child is the Son of God. He holds him in his arms, and just thinking about it, his soul trembles. How to form him and educate him? What a pristine example must he give to this Child!
Joseph’s life has changed forever — yet he cannot imagine how much all has changed. Forty days after the birth of the Baby, fulfilling the law, he travels to Jerusalem with Mary to present the Child to God at the Temple. When they get in, an old man approaches them and tells Mary a few words that strike him. A sword will pierce her soul. (Luke 2:35) What is he talking about? How great a pain will afflict his beloved wife? When will this happen? How is this connected to this tender Baby, who is the Son of God? Joseph feels anxious — he has no choice but to trust God once more.
A few days later, a group of wise men who traveled from the East come to adore the Baby. They bring gifts with powerful symbols: gold for a king, incense for God, and myrrh for the one who will have to suffer. (Matthew 2:11)
After a tough day, Joseph holds the Baby in his arms while Mary rests. The Baby falls asleep and Joseph places him next to his mother and decides to rest as well. He has a dream that distresses him! (Matthew 2:13-14) The angel warns him that Jesus is in danger because Herod is looking for him to kill him. They must flee immediately! Joseph awakes shaking and sweating. He believes it was a nightmare only, but his heart is certain that it was real. It was the same angel who had appeared to him before and he knew he was a messenger of God. Now what?
There is no time to waste! He ignores how close the king’s soldiers are. He awakens Mary and shares with her the angel’s message. Mary looks at him in anguish. Both remain silent. “Where do we go, Joseph?” she finally asks. “Mary, let’s go to Egypt.” “Egypt? We don’t even know anyone there, we have no place to stay, you will have no work, and we will need to feed the Baby. Besides, it is far away.” “Precisely, Mary. The farther, the better. We must keep our son safe. The angel told me so, and we have heard stories of people we know about Egypt being a prosperous land where we can start once more. We have each other, and now, we also have the child.”
Mary trusts Joseph because she loves him. But she trusts God even more and knows that, as absurd as this trip seems, he will provide. With tears in their eyes they set off on a long journey, leaving behind the land where they grew up, where they met, where they built their first home.
Egypt is about 440 miles away. The place is impressive, modern and cosmopolitan. They feel thrilled, yet afraid at the same time. But they never lose hope. This new land will be the home of the Holy Family. Joseph will have to start again, from the ground up, with no other hope than the wellbeing of his family — especially, the wellbeing of Baby Jesus.
Jesus, Joseph and Mary, a Holy Family of immigrants. They look after those immigrants who, just like them, leave behind their home with tears in their eyes in search of the blessing of God in a foreign land.
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Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2019