Are you barren or fruitful in your spiritual life?
Are you like the man in the first reading who turns away from God and trusts in human beings? This man is as barren as a bush in a lava plain or a desert or a salty wasteland. He will not bear the fruits of faith, hope, and love because he rejects God's gifts. He will only wither without the grace that only God can provide.
Or are you like the man who trusts in God and puts his hope only in Him? This man will flourish like a tree beside a fresh and flowing stream. His roots go down so deep into the living waters of God's grace that even the drought of earthly suffering will not make his leaves and branches droop and fade. He has no fear of what might happen in this life, for he knows that God will care for him tenderly and bring him home to Heaven. Therefore, he produces the good fruits of love and mercy.
Barren or fruitful? We each have a choice. Which will it be?
Friday – A Man Sent Before
Joseph was quite young when he went to Egypt, and he certainly didn't go voluntarily. His own brothers sold him into slavery for a mere twenty pieces of silver. Joseph's life wasn't easy for quite a long time. He rose to prominence in the household of an important Egyptian but then ended up in prison when the Egyptian's wife accused him of a crime he didn't commit.
But God didn't forget Joseph. Even in prison, he revealed his management skills and was soon running the place and interpreting dreams for other prisoners. His God-given gift in that area was what eventually got him out of jail.
One night the Pharaoh had a strange dream that he just couldn't figure out...something about seven fat cows and seven thin cows and then seven plump ears of grain and seven blighted ears. He couldn't make heads nor tails out of it, and it troubled him. The Pharaoh's cupbearer had been in prison with Joseph, and Joseph had actually interpreted a dream for him once, so the servant told the Pharaoh about this Hebrew he once knew who had a knack for figuring out difficult dreams. The Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once.
Under God's guidance, Joseph told the Pharaoh that his dream foretold seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. Joseph, ever the practical man, also had a plan to help Pharaoh prepare for those imminent years of famine: collect one-fifth of the crops during the productive years and put them in reserve; then there would be plenty to eat during the lean years. The Pharaoh loved the idea so much that he made Joseph his right-hand man.
In almost an instant, Joseph rose from the very bottom of the heap to the very top, second only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph was an excellent administrator, and he fit nicely into Egyptian life, but he never forgot his roots. One day, in the midst of the famine, his brothers showed up to buy food. They didn't recognize Joseph, of course, for he looked like a typical Egyptian vizier. Joseph knew them, but he wasn't about to tell them who he was. Further, although he had already forgiven them, he skillfully led them through a series of tests and trials that brought them to repentance for their sin of selling him in the first place and to a much greater love for each other.
When Joseph finally revealed his true identity, his brothers were pretty nervous. Joseph, however, was quick to reassure them that he bore no grudge. In fact, he recognized God's hand in everything that had happened. God had sent him on ahead to make sure that his family (and indeed much of the Middle East) would not perish in the time of famine but would be able to carry on the covenant that God had made with them. God had a plan; Joseph was His chosen instrument. And Joseph was content with that.
Saturday – God Delights in Mercy
God delights in mercy. He wants to forgive His people. He longs for us to turn to Him with contrite hearts. It pleases Him greatly to wash a repentant sinner clean and wrap him up in love. He desires nothing more than to have all of His children safe at home with Him for all eternity.
Take a few moments to reflect on this great truth, and then turn to God to receive the mercy He so delights to bestow.