Last month the Americans won the women’s World Cup, besting Japan, five to two. I was looking at the stats, curious to see who was scoring all the goals. And one name jumped out: Carli Lloyd.
Carli’s 33, which actually makes her one of the younger stars on a team filled with veterans, some of whom are 35 or 40. In the last four games that the American team played in the World Cup, Carli scored six of her team’s ten goals. In the final against Japan, she was voted captain. She scored three goals in the first sixteen minutes, an almost unheard of achievement at that level of play.
In the final sixteen minutes, Carli gave her captain’s armband to a veteran teammate and former captain, Abby Wambach. Then when they won the game, the armband was passed to another experienced player player, Christie Rampone.
Karli’s performance is an unusual example of selflessness among professional athletes. Karli embodies the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, demonstrating by her actions that she is part of team – where credit goes to the group, rather than any single individual.
In our first reading today, we hear of manna that comes raining down from heaven to feed the Israelites. You know, the Book of Exodus is a rather strange book. You might call it mysterious.
Within six brief chapters, Exodus tells us different stories that foreshadow the Passion of our Lord, baptism and the Eucharist.
The Passover, in chapter twelve, tells us that God asked the Israelites to take a lamb, sacrifice it, and eat it standing up – anticipating the life of Jesus in the New Testament, our own Passover Lamb.
The parting of the waters in Exodus 14, where the Israelites pass from a land of slavery and prepare a journey towards the promised land, anticipates our own baptism. And the story of manna falling from heaven in chapter 16 anticipates the Eucharist. That manna is also known as the bread come down from heaven, or food of angels.
It goes without saying that Exodus is an important story for the Israelites. Think of Charleton Heston and the epic film – the “Ten Commandments.” Or think of how important the Passover celebration is to our Jewish friends and neighbors.
Saint John the Evangelist, the author of the Book of Revelation, knows this himself. He or his community understands that the Exodus event is important for the people of Israel. He sees parallels between the pilgrim journey of the Jewish people through the wilderness, and our own life. So John does something unusual in the Book of Revelation.
He places Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the scene of the Exodus event in chapters 12 and 13. He places her on the sand, near the shores of the sea. In fact, if you travel to Assisi, you will see in the Mary Chapel, a wall panel depicting this very scene – people lined up by the shore of the sea, on the sand, with Mary present among them, and a great dragon flying thru the sky.
Why does John take Mary and put her at the scene of the Exodus event? Because John is telling us that Mary walks with us during our own pilgrim journey. John is telling us, ‘we are all baptized, like the Israelites who walked thru the parted waters.’ ‘We are all called to participate in the Eucharist, as the Israelites all ate the bread from heaven.’ And he is saying, ‘that woman at the shore of the sea is the woman who will walk with us during our pilgrim journey towards the kingdom of heaven.’
And by the way, this is not merely my opinion. This is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
You know, in the document Lumen Gentium, the very first paragraph is entitled the “Mystery of the Church.” The mystery of a Christian church that was foreshadowed in the Exodus story. We are pilgrim people destined for the promised land, just like the Israelites in the Sinai.
And the very last paragraph is entitled “Mary a sign of hope and a solace to the wandering people of God.” This phrase is directly inspired by the imagery of Revelation 12 and 13. Mary, the great sign in the sky – the magnum signum – who accompany’s us on our own journey through the wilderness.
She is the one standing by the sea shore, ready to accompany us as we turn our backs on the parted waters. She walks with us as we leave behind a life lived without Christ, and as we walk towards the kingdom of heaven together, as a team or a community, with Jesus Christ and her mother to keep us company on our journey.