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The Fleshpots of Egypt

First Reading: Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15

They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” And Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, `Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your murmurings.'” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel; say to them, `At twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'” In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 78:18-19, 23-28

They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Yet he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; and he rained down upon them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind; he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their habitations.

Gospel: John 20:1-2, 11-18

Now on the first day of the week Mary Mag’dalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Mag’dalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

ESV

july 22

At first glance the whiny Israelites and Saint Mary Magdalene (whose feast is today) seem unrelated, but there is something that they have in common. God has freed them both from slavery: the Israelites from Egypt and Saint Mary Magdalene from her sinful life.

The difference between the two is that the Israelites continued to look back and long for their old lives. They whined for their “fleshpots” in Egypt. They worried that the God who freed them from their oppression would abandon them in their need in the desert. They really had no right to whine, as they broke their covenant with God again and again.

But Saint Mary Magdalene, if she ever looked back, she never wanted her old life. She looked at Jesus with complete faith and love. She sat at His feet, hanging onto His every word. She looked for Him in His tomb, and mourned to find Him missing. And when He appeared to her, she rejoiced. Her love for Jesus never ceased. Tradition tells us that she lived after the Ascension of Christ in a cave doing penance for her many sins. She never stopped loving, and she never longed for the life she had before.

I look at myself, and how often I have betrayed the love of Christ through sin, and how easily I forget the love He has for me and how it feels to be forgiven and freed from the slavery of sin. The temptations of the world, of habitual sins, and of taking the easy way out are very strong.

How often I am like the Israelites, looking at worldly life, wishing for comfortable vices. But there is a lot of false freedom in following the trends of society. Succumbing to the ways of the world would be like the Israelites going back to Egypt.

Even though I am not always as thankful and full of love as Saint Mary Magdalene, God still gives me so much. He gave the ungrateful Israelites in the desert manna, the bread of the angels, to eat, but how much more does He give me in forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession and His Body to nourish my soul with the Eucharist? I am so grateful for the Sacraments and the daily nourishment available to me to help me live a life of love and grace.

Do you need to appreciate the Sacraments more? Take time to go to confession in the next week and go to a daily Mass that you do not normally go to, asking God to help you love Him more. Saint Mary Magdalene, pray for us!

photo by Madi Myers Cook

Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls, new baby, and her dear husband. You can find out more about her here.

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