For my class I had to write a Homily, so I decided to write one on the Red Sea and so here is my Homily on the Red Sea.
I was Baptized when I was 18, kind of strange for a Catholic but I was not a Catholic. I was raised in a Baptist church. In the Baptist church you have to choose at some point in your life when you would like to be Baptized. My Mom had just died of cancer and I realized there was nothing that could ever happen that could break my relationship with God, so I decided to devote the rest of my life to him. Now as seriously as I took my Baptism and as much as it meant to me, it didn’t exactly go according to plan. Dan McCarthy was the fill in Pastor, because our church was in the midsts of a search for a Pastor. Now I grew up in a small town named Essex and as expected in a small town, the fill-in pastor was also a farmer, but he was a gifted preacher. Although you’d expect a farmer to not be dressed that well, Dan was always dressed to the nines for church on Sunday, especially when he was preaching and even more so when there was a Baptism.
Two important things to remember about Baptism in the Baptist church is that we do full immersion, meaning you and the pastor get into a large bathtub and your whole body gets dunked under water. The second thing you need to remember is that for some odd reason we do the Baptism first, which means the Pastor has to Baptize you and then get out, go change and come out and preach for 30 more minutes. Well Dan was a farmer so he was very resourceful. Dan was also the type to be “all in”, he was not one to hold back. Dan decided to Baptize me while wearing a pair of waders. Now for the non-farmers out there these are rubber overalls that are all one piece so that water can’t get in anywhere, all the way up past your waist, almost to your chest. Pretty ingenious right? Well, beside the fact that it was odd having one of the most important, meaningful, sacred and special moments of my life marked by a man wearing this ridiculous outfit with a suit underneath, it didn’t go at all as planned. As Dan grabbed me and thrust me in and out of the water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, his chest went below the water and his rubber waders filled with water. His plan had backfired since now his waders were filled with water up to his knees and there was no where for the water to go.
But what I always admired about Dan, as I said before, he is “all in”. He wasn’t going to let a little water get in the way of his duty as a preacher! So he went to the back and dried his dress pants out under the bathroom blow dryer. Dan didn’t care if he got a little wet and he wasn’t going to look back! He got right in that water with me and even when things didn’t go as he thought they would, after he got soaked, he never let it hold him back. He went up to preach and he came out in front of the crowd no worse for wear…. although maybe still a little damp.
When we hear about Moses and the Exodus out of Egypt in the readings we see another man who never looked back. Moses was an unlikely leader, some scholars even say he may have had some sort of speech impediment. However, with the power of God behind him, he freed the Jews from slavery. The Israelite people were happy to have God’s representative, Moses, come and lead them out of Egypt away from that slavery. Just as God has sent the Church to be His representative to lead us away from sin.
The Israeli people ran from their slave owners as the Egyptian people chased them down, but in order to truly be free they needed a major intervention from God. As they reached the Red Sea I’m sure panic set in as they felt hopelessly defenseless. There was nothing more that was humanly possible for them to do and it looked as though they were doomed to a life of slavery to the Egyptians or worse yet, (or maybe better yet) they were doomed to death. Then God acts. In one of the most dramatic displays of God’s power and one of the most notable stories in human history. He commands Moses to raise his arm and part the Red Sea, saving the Jewish people, who were on the brink of death, through the water. Not only are they saved from the immediate threat, but God destroys the army of death so that the Israeli people no longer have to be afraid, because death itself has been defeated.
We too can run from our own slavery of sin all we want but what we really need in order to live in peace is a major intervention from God. When I was dunked into the water at my Baptist church God did for me exactly what he did for the Israeli people. God literally saved me from death while I was on the brink of death and destroyed my slavery to sin so that I no longer had to ever fear that slavery again. Even though you probably don’t remember your Baptism, God did the same for you. God destroyed the threat of sin at your Baptism. God gave you the strength in your Baptism to walk away from that slavery of sin in peace and in freedom. Never underestimate the power of that moment. Just as the Red Sea is one of the most important events in human history, your Baptism is one of the most profound events you will ever experience in your life.
For the Israelites this miracle came with the prophecy of the Promised Land. It was the beginning of a journey towards the land “flowing with milk and honey” which was something they had been anticipating for a long long time. However before they would reach the promised land, they would have to go on a very long journey that would would test their faith and at times they would want to turn back. They would get caught up in worshiping things that were not God and even say “things were better when we were slaves in Egypt”! Really?!?!? But of course God provides for them by sending them bread from Heaven, which they of course take for granted and throughout the whole journey continue to disobey God.
We are on this journey, constantly getting tired, complaining, losing our faith and even saying, “things were better when I could do whatever I want and didn’t care about these Catholic rules.” How easily we forget that we were slaves! How often we get caught up in worshipping things that are not God! I have no trouble remembering the details of whatever show I watched on Netflix but how often I forget what God did for me in my Baptism. Sometimes I even think, what would it be like if I did whatever I wanted and paid no attention to what God wants me to do. But I know that it is a slavery to sin and I know I have the bread from Heaven, the Eucharist to nourish me along the journey.
During the Baptismal Rite in the Catholic Church there is the “Prayer Over the Water” in order to bless the waters in preparation for Baptism. Over the waters we pray,
“Father, you give us grace through sacramental signs, which tells us of the wonders of your unseen power.
In Baptism we use your gift of water, which you have made a rich symbol of grace you give us in this sacrament.”
The prayer over the waters ends with this line about the Red Sea,
“Through the waters of the Red Sea you led Israel out of slavery to be an image of God’s people, set free from sin in Baptism.”
So my challenge for us is to be “all in”. Be like Dan who didn’t turn back even when things didn’t go as expected. Be like Moses who fearlessly led God’s people to freedom even when he didn’t think he could. Let us even be like the Israeli people who, although they turned back, got distracted, lost faith and continually disobeyed God, always remembered and retold that epic story of how God rescued them from Death through the waters of the Red Sea. Let us, “God’s people”, constantly recall our own Baptism as the most significant story in our lives, where God rescued us from slavery, from sin and from death.