I love the humanness of the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers (Gen 37-45). We recently heard the entire story in our readings at Lauds. Then we also heard the end of it in the first reading for Mass on July 12. Then there is the verse in Psalm 105 that reads, “God sent a man before them – Joseph, sold as a slave.”
First, there is Jacob who loved the mother of Joseph and Benjamin so deeply that he has not ever gotten over her loss. He dotes on her two sons without much regard for how this will affect their older brothers.
Then, there is Joseph himself. A young man, perhaps a teenager, who seems clueless about the feelings of his elder brothers. He is, as they say, a dreamer who ingenuously shares his dreams with his brothers even when they are insulting to them.
And of course, there are the older brothers, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, and Zebulun. For years they have watched Jacob give preferential treatment to Joseph and Benjamin. They have listened to Joseph recounting his dreams which seem to say that God prefers Joseph to them as well.
Grief – Favoritism – Self-absorption – Insensitivity – Envy – Jealousy
How very human all these characters are! Haven’t we all been there at some time or other?
But the story doesn’t end with human weakness and sin but with God’s grace.
At first, Joseph’s brothers do not recognize him, so he gives in to the temptation to make them suffer just a fraction of the suffering they put him through. Eventually, God touches his heart with tears, and God inspires Joseph’s beautiful line, “But now do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves… What you meant for evil, God meant for good” (45:5)
It is hard to let go of the hurt when someone has wronged us. It is much easier to mull it over constantly, keeping the hurt fresh and the wound open. But we can pray for God’s grace to forgive and the grace to see how God has brought good out of the harm we have felt.
By Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, OSB