Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Always Seeking to Redeem Us

Always Seeking to Redeem Us

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O’Sullivan

(When famine gripped the whole world), it was Joseph, as governor of the country, who dispensed the rations to all the people.  When Joseph’s brothers came and knelt down before him with their faces to the ground, he recognized them as soon as he saw them.  But Joseph concealed his own identity from them and spoke sternly to them… Joseph said to his brothers:  “Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man.  If you have been honest, only one of your brothers need be confined in this prison, while the rest of you may go and take home provisions for your starving families.  But you must come back to me with your youngest brother.  You words will thus be verified, and you will not die.”  To this they agreed.  To one another, however, they said:  “Alas, we are being punished because of our brother.  We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us, yet we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has now come upon us.”  Reuben broke in, “Did I not tell you not to do wrong to the boy?  But you would not listen!  Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”  The brothers did not know, of course, that Joseph understood what they said, since he spoke with them through an interpreter.  But turning away from them, he wept. (Genesis 42:6-7a, 18-24a)

The Lord brings to nought the plans of the nations; he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the Lord stands forever; the design of his heart, through all generations. (Psalm 33:10-11) 


Lord, may I always be open to your redeeming work in my life.


Years ago, I was acquainted with an older woman who seemed to me one of the kindest, most compassionate individuals I had ever met.  I made a chance comment to that effect to a friend who knew her and was about her age.  He said her compassion was born of great suffering.  He told me that as a young girl she had conceived a child out of wedlock and entered into a difficult marriage, all without benefit of family support.  They turned their backs on her and abandoned her.

I was reminded of her as I read Joseph’s story.  How easy it would have been for either of them to have turned out so differently, embittered and hardened.  When we first read about Joseph in Genesis 37, he’s the worse-than-annoying youngest of Jacob’s sons, yet doted on by his father.  Over the years jealousy and resentment grow among his older brothers, sibling rivalry ultimately morphing into hatred.  They attempt to kill him, get cold feet, and sell him to a traveling band of merchants instead.  They lead their father to believe his beloved son is dead, while Joseph winds up a slave in Egypt.

So far this tale has all the makings of a terrible tragedy, the story of a family forever broken by anger and deceit, and of a deeply grieving father.  But God’s ways are not our ways and Joseph’s story doesn’t end there.  Even as Joseph in those first years in Egypt must have spent time reflecting on his part in causing his brothers to want to kill him, the Lord was with him.  God gives Joseph many talents that enable him to rise high in the land of Egypt. 

In today’s first reading, the world is ravaged by famine.  Joseph has wisely planned for this eventuality.  Egypt has stores of grain and he controls the disbursement of them to the hungry.  Here we see his older brothers on the brink of starvation, begging for some grain to take home with them.  They don’t know it, but the brother they tried to kill has just become the brother who saves them.  Joseph recognizes them.   He hears their remorse, gives them grain, and arranges for one of them to be held hostage until they bring his younger brother, whom he has never met, back to meet him.  Joseph knows that his father Jacob will never allow the son of his old age to be parted from him, and, so, Joseph ensures that the entire family will be reunited when they return.  Our reading ends with Joseph weeping, overcome with emotion at all that has transpired.


It could all have turned out so differently were it not for the grace of God.  Take a few minutes to reflect on your life and give thanks for those times when God has transformed the pain of your wounds into forgiveness and compassion toward those who hurt you.

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