March 1st 2013. Friday in the Second Week of Lent
Gen 37:3ff. Jacob’s sons envy their brother Joseph, and sell him into slavery
Matt 21:33ff. Greedy for property, the wicked tenants kill the landowner’s son.
First Reading: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13 17-28
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.”
The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” – that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his rob, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.
Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Providence at work in our lives
The story of Jacob’s sons is told in detail (Gen 37-50) to conclude the book of Genesis. The account of Joseph has one overriding motif found at the end in Joseph’s words to his brothers: “Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his purpose, the survival of many ” (50:19-20). Mysteriously yet powerfully God can bring our convoluted, mixed-up and sometimes misguided life to a positive end, even for our enemies and for those who cared little for us. It was through Joseph’s perseverance in his trials that the twelve tribes were established in Egypt where they developed a distinctive culture and a strong religious unity. In Jesus’ case his rejection by the Jewish leaders led to a gloriously new Israel, joining Jew and Gentile in one family (Romans 11).
The story of Joseph and the ministry of Jesus exemplify God’s providence. A divine plan reaches into the depth of our existence. At times we may have a passing glimpse of it, other times we have the intuition in prayer, yet always we are being directed and guided by it. Jesus refers to this guiding plan of his Heavenly Father in his frequent references to the Hebrew scriptures. The earliest Christians firmly believed in a worldwide plan in the mind of God, culminating in Jesus. In today’s parable Jesus quotes from Psalm 118: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the keystone. It was the Lord who did this and we find it marvelous to behold!”
Lent ought to purify our minds and put us into closer touch with the depth where God resides. Selfishness and false ambition should be swept away by our prayer, Bible study and other devotional practices. We should begin all over again to “dream” our best ideals, planted in us by God. This can renew our conviction that God’s mysterious providence is in effective control of our lives. It offers serenity even in the face of problems and disappointments if we can see that God directs everything towards some good. If this belief of Joseph becomes our own we see a marvelous effect, a truly rich harvest of grace.