Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Reflections for the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – The Surprise of a Lifetime

Joseph's story is one of riches to rags to riches. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph, once his father's favorite, spends quite a bit of time in the Pharaoh's dungeons until God gives him the ability to interpret the Pharaoh's dream. Joseph shoots up the ladder of success after that, assuming a prominent leadership role in the Egyptian government, second only to the Pharaoh himself. 

Joseph proves to be a wise administrator. He has the foresight to collect grain against the threat of future famine, and when the famine finally strikes, the Egyptians have plenty to eat. The same cannot, however, be said of Joseph's brothers and their families. Their father, Jacob, hearing of grain available in Egypt, sends his sons to purchase some. 

Here's where the story gets even more interesting. The brothers present themselves before the Pharaoh's right-hand man to make their request, not realizing that this high-power Egyptian official is really their little brother. Joseph makes them squirm a bit. Accusing them of spying, he locks them in the guardhouse and then makes them return to their homeland to pick up their youngest brother, Benjamin (Joseph's full brother), and return. He does, however, make sure that they have enough food to provide for their starving families. 

In today's first reading, we reach the climax of story. The brothers have already returned to Egypt to buy more food, and at this time, Joseph detains Benjamin for “stealing” a gold cup in an attempt to keep his beloved younger brother close to him. The others beg Joseph to let Benjamin go, saying that it would kill their father if they went home without him. Joseph just can't take it anymore. He bursts into tears and reveals his identity. 

The brothers are dumbfounded. They've just experienced the surprise of a lifetime. This mighty Egyptian official is their brother Joseph? The one they had sold into slavery? Uh oh. By this point, they are pretty nervous about what will happen next. But Joseph knows that it's time to let them off the hook. He explains “I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”

Everything that happened to Joseph is part of God's plan. God is always in charge, and there is a reason for every event of Joseph's life and of our lives. Our job is to recognize God's hand, like Joseph does, and to cooperate with what He's doing as much as possible. 

To Joseph's credit, he never holds his brothers' actions against them. In fact, after his big reveal, he treats them with great honor, respect, and love.

Friday – The Spirit Will Speak

In today's Gospel, Jesus offers both a scary scenario and some meaningful reassurance. First, He warns His apostles that persecution will come. They will be handed over to religious and secular leaders on account of their faith. They will offend powerful people with their testimony to the truth, and sometimes they will pay for it with their lives. 

Jesus' words probably make the apostles wonder how they would ever be able to face such situations. What would they say? How would they witness? How could they even dare to speak before such men? Jesus surely knows their hearts and their fears, and He is quick to reassure them, saying, “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Imagine that; the Holy Spirit will do the talking. The apostles just have to get out of the way and allow Him to use them as His instruments to proclaim His message to the world. The same applies to us. We live in a world where Christians are being persecuted and where God's moral values are being attacked on all sides. It can be hard to stand up for what's right, but we must, and it's comforting to know that the Holy Spirit, if we let Him, will speak through us to declare the truth. 

Saturday – Do Not Be Afraid

Do you realize how important you are to God? In today's Gospel, Jesus emphasizes this reality: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Take some time today to reflect on these words. God knows every sparrow that falls; every little feathered creature is on God's radar. How much more is that true of us, His beloved children? He knows us so well. All our hairs are counted. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He loves us. We are more important to Him than we can ever imagine. 

So why fear? Stay close to Him. Trust Him. Love Him. Do not be afraid.

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