06 July, Wednesday of Week 14
Gen 41:55ff. When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for grain, he arranges to meet his youngest brother, Benjamin.
Matt 10:1ff. Jesus gives his apostles the power to heal, and sends them out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Giving and Sharing
From all parts of the famine-stricken middle east, people flocked into Egypt to avoid starvation. Joseph’s brothers are among this stream of refugees, which suggests the mixed ancestry of the people that would eventually come out of Egypt under the name of Israel. In its very origin Israel had a universalist quality, and by their poverty and need the original Israelites are linked with people throughout the world.
In God’s ideal kingdom, the world’s produce is to be shared with everyone; and by goodwill and planning there should be plenty for all. Much later in its history, the Israelite kingdom would deny this right of sharing in resources, and social justice was neglected. Whenever the poor are wronged, prosperous folk tend to worship gods other than Yahweh. But when the wealthy selfishly let their neighbours go hungry, fearless prophets rose to voice the anger of God, who rescues his poor out of slavery.
It is clear that a centralised kingdom like that set up by Joseph in Egypt could not stay secure and tranquil forever. Although Joseph offered to feed the world’s hungry people, eventually, through the centralised method of taxing and distributing the food supply, Pharaoh gained total control of the land of Egypt, in a despotic rule that led to the enslavement of Israel.
Somehow, the way must be found to share in each other’s gifts without losing our human dignity and sense of equality. Economic measures are never enough of themselves; the solution must have a religious dimension too. Mere legal compliance allows for many loopholes and clever manipulation, and sooner or later injustice and idolatry become rampant like weeds in the once luxuriant vineyard. We must go beyond even the measures taken by Joseph in Egypt; and when we give to others, remember that it is a God-willed sharing, not a one-way giving. In this process, we are learning as much as teaching; for we are as needy as our neighbour, even if in different ways.
First Reading: Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24
When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.” And since the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world.
Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.
Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”
And he put them all together in prison for three days. On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so. They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes.
Gospel: Matthew 10:1-7
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’