Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh's horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, "Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt."
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers." So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
"I will sing to the Lord,
for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea."
It was then that Moses and the children of Israel sang this song in honour of the Lord:
At the breath of your anger the waters piled high;
the moving waters stood up like a dam;
the deeps turned solid in the midst of the sea.
The enemy said: 'I will pursue and overtake them,
I will divide the plunder, I shall have my will.
I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.' (R./)
You blew with your breath, the sea closed over them.
They went down like lead into the mighty waters.
You stretched forth your hand, the earth engulfed them. (R./)
You will lead your people and plant them on your mountain,
the place, O Lord, where you have made your home,
the sanctuary, Lord, which your hands have made. (R./)
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
Exodus tells of Israel's liberation and journey towards the promised land and of their uniqueness among the nations. Matthew, on the contrary, sees Jesus forming a new family of outsiders, based on "whoever does the will of my Father." Christianity is to form a chosen people from among all nations, gathered around Jesus. This notion "chosen people" can seem restrictive unless we remember that unless we first rally together in a strong family bond, we will have little to share with others.
Only a loving family can open its doors freely to neighbours and outsiders. The Hebrew Scriptures insist that God's chosen people should resist all oppression. All symbols of pride and greed and dominance must be cast to the bottom of the sea, as they sang to the Lord, who has triumphed gloriously. "Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea." This symbol was remembered in Israel. God will "cast our sins into the depths of the sea" and be ever faithful to his people. After they returned from the Babylonian exile, still reeling from this traumatic event, the people prayed for a renewal of faith as in the days of Moses, and for the favour God showed to their ancestors. However, in this period of regrouping they felt it necessary to exclude all outsiders. Restored Israel first had to recover its identity in order to later open its doors and have something worthwhile to share.
Jesus threw open the doors, even at great cost even to his natural family. When his mother and brothers wanted to speak with him, Jesus seemed to set their wishes aside. Gesturing to the circle of his disciples, he said, "These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me." He makes it quite clear how to belong to his spiritual family.
We love and cherish our family members, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, all our relatives. But Jesus names a group who are even more important to him than the members of his earthly family. Pointing to his disciples, he says, "Here are my mother and my brothers and my sisters." He defines disciples as those who do the will of his Father in heaven, as he has shown it by his teaching and by his life, death and resurrection. We can be, and should become, members of his family.
Earlier, in the beatitudes, said "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," in other words, "Blessed are those whose deepest desire is to do God's will." We may not succeed in doing God's will all the time, but if our deepest desire is to do what God wants, we are truly the Lord's disciples, and, in virtue of that, his brothers and sisters. What Jesus wants is for us to be members of his new family, held together not by ties of blood but by the Holy Spirit. Hungering to do God's will, we open ourselves to the Spirit makes us brothers and sisters in the family of Jesus, and sons and daughters of God.