Thursday, June 06, 2002

About Jochebed

It was the summer of 1975. I was back in Ohio for the summer from university, and I had no employment. So I divided up my days, a third of them in the library, a third of them helping at a place called the Charles de Foucauld House, and a third with my maternal grandmother, who was doubling at the time as my spiritual director.

To Grandma, absolutely everything was purposeful, every human activity had its blessing and its proper way, and almost every prayer began, "Blessed be the Lord, king of the universe, who...." Between cleaning and baking and sewing and handwork, we were praying about and discerning my future path. A few months before, I had discovered the hard way that for advanced calculus and organic chemistry I was not fit, so medicine was out of the question at last; but it had been obvious since very early childhood that making things whole, imposing order on various forms of chaos, was my primary talent. Yet,how to use it? And how to make a living, or accept not doing so?

By August, it had become obvious that I would study theology and philosophy even if I had to bus tables and babysit for a livelihood all my life. It was also equally obvious that I would not be marrying and raising up great-grandchildren; my way would be the way of the Counsels. So I was renamed: in my mother's family, every major change in life comes with a new name. Grandma called me Jochebed.

Who was Jochebed? Jochebed (the name means "the LORD is glorious") was the valiant Israelite woman who was the mother of Aaron and Miriam and Moses. She committed her beloved baby Moses to the river in a floating cradle, on the slimmest of chances that he might survive, and he not only survived but was brought back to her side by his royal rescuer. She bore and raised three prophets and servants of the Lord, and then she was forgotten but for a few lines at the beginning of the book of Exodus.

That is our way as humans. We do what we must, and life goes on. One person plants, another hoes and weeds, still another harvests, and all are necessary. Yet there is only One who receives glory.

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