As the credits rolled for the animated film that was once beloved in my youth, I heard the lyrics, “Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. There can be miracles when you believe…” I looked up from my mélange of bills, cards, and sticky notes to remind myself what our preschooler, Felicity, was watching for her evening movie. It was strangely familiar – something I knew but had forgotten after years of cobwebs multiplying in my memory.
She had selected Prince of Egypt, the Old Testament tale about Moses – his secret upbringing as Pharaoh’s son and then revelation of his true identity as a Hebrew slave. The movie chronicles his spiritual metamorphosis into the leader of God’s chosen people out of slavery and toward the Promised Land.
Unexpectedly, my eyes welled with tears. At times, I am embarrassed by this spontaneous phenomenon, but I often brush it off as my “mommy moments.” Upon becoming a mother, I have noted that my ability to cry at the drop of a hat and for no apparent reason has exponentially increased. When I examine myself more honestly, I almost always acknowledge an increase of self-awareness that I may have previously attempted to conceal – both from myself and from God.
In this moment, I realized that the story of Moses is a perfect segue into Lent – my Lent. I know this point is obvious to nearly every Catholic, but I needed the overt reminder to somehow prepare my soul for its personal purgation. I am like the Hebrew slave – waiting for salvation and yet relenting to the reality that it will never occur in my lifetime. I toil and labor in vain, or so it seems, day after day as I run our daughters to endless doctor’s appointments and collect data from their diagnostic tests.
Moses didn’t realize that he prefigured Jesus the Christ. He abdicated the grandeur of a luxurious, royal existence to dwell among the people of his ancestors – who were poor, infirm, and despondent. He saw their plight and heard their cries. He responded to God’s instructions without skepticism. And when all seemed eternally desolate as Ramses refused to release the Hebrews from exile time and again, at last they were free – but not without trials and loss.
I am reminded of this as the haunting echo of that lyric repeats itself in my heart: “Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill. There can be miracles when you believe…” Do I believe in miracles in my own life? If asked, I would respond with a resounding “Yes”! But if I look within, I see the doubt of the Hebrews in my heart – the fear, the monotony and oppression of their lives for generations, and the loss of hope.
The lesson for me this Lent is this: Hope never dies. I envision it as a flame. The flame may burn more brightly at certain times than at others, but it may also weakly flicker and nearly die altogether. In my soul, that flame of hope never completely dissipates.
This is the message of Lent: Our salvation – Jesus – is available to us in the Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation and the Eucharist). We may be in the desert and experience aridity in our prayer lives. We may slog at work and at home, seemingly in vain. Our hope is frail. Like the Hebrews, our hope clings to the promise of eternity and of liberation. Unlike the Hebrews, our freedom is not a literal one. Rather it is the freedom from eternal death, freedom from our sins, and the renewal of our souls.
That is why our hope is hard to kill. Miracles happen every day, often in very mundane and ordinary ways. We are tempted to overlook them, because our souls are shrouded in darkness – the darkness of sin. But we are promised an eternal reward if we cling to our faith and have confidence in the God who saves. We acknowledge the necessary drudgery and trials, but we also believe in the miracles that await us in the end.
Copyright 2015 Jeannie Ewing
Image created by Jeannie Ewing on canva.com; photo courtesy of freeimages.com.