09Mar 09 March. Friday of Week 2 of Lent

Genesis 37:3ff. Jacob’s sons envy their brother Joseph, and sell him into slavery

Matthew 21:33ff. In a grab for property, violent tenants kill the landowner’s son.

The Stone rejected by the Builders

Beginning with chapter 37 the story of Joseph occupies the rest of the book of Genesis (Gen 37-50). The Joseph story has one overriding motif which is stated at the end in his words to his brothers: “Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people” (50:19-20).

Mysteriously God can bring our convoluted, mixed-up life to overflow with a blessing, even for our enemies and for those who care little for us. In Joseph’s case the twelve tribes are securely established in Egypt where they multiply and develop their distinctive culture and unity. In Jesus’ case his rejection by the Jewish leaders would lead to a new and more glorious Israel, joining Jew and Gentile into one family of God.

The story of Joseph and the ministry of Jesus exemplify faith in God’s providence. A divine plan reaches into the depth of our existence. At times we may reach a passing glimpse of it, other times we intuit it during periods of prayer, yet always we are being directed and guided by it. Jesus refers to this overwhelming plan of his Heavenly Father in his frequent references to the Scriptures. There exists a world-scale plan in the mind of God, culminating in Jesus. This plan triumphs over resistance, as Jesus says, quoting from Psalm 118: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the keystone of the structure. It was the Lord who did this and we find it marvellous to behold!”

In the story of Joseph this same faith in God’s providential care is proposed in the references to dreams. The other brothers nickname Joseph “the dreamer.” Not only in chapter 37 but later in an Egyptian prison Joseph gains his freedom and eventually a high position at the royal court by interpreting dreams. Dreams symbolize the hidden, mysterious, deeply imbedded and sure way by which God’s providential plan comes to human consciousness.

Our Lenten fast and prayer ought to purify our minds and hearts and so put us into closer touch with the depths of ourselves where God resides. Selfishness and false ambition, sensuality and over-confidence should be swept away so we can “dream” of  the ideals planted in us by God. We should seek serenity even in the face of problems, and think, like Joseph, “God meant all this for our good.”

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 robe, 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.

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