10Jul 10 July, 2013. Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week

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.

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.’

A Place for Giving and Sharing

From all parts of the famine-stricken middle east, people flocked into Egypt to avoid starvation, with Joseph’s brothers among this stream of refugees, In God’s ideal kingdom, the world’s produce is meant for sharing by everyone; and by goodwill and planning there should be plenty for all. Later in their history as a kingdom, with rulers and laws that favoured the wealthy,  the Israelites often denied to the poor this right of sharing the land’s resources. Whenever the poor are wronged in this way, prosperous folk prefer gods other than Yahweh. But when the wealthy let their neighbours go hungry, fearless prophets rose to voice the anger of God, who rescues his poor out of slavery.Clearly 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, it was through the centralised method of taxing and distributing the food supply that Pharaoh gained total control of Egypt, in a despotic rule that led to the enslavement of Israel.

Somehow, ways must be found to share in each other’s gifts without losing our human dignity and our basic sense of equality. Economic measures in themselves are never enough; solutions need a religious dimension too. Merely legal remedies allow for many loopholes and clever manipulation; sooner or later injustice and idolatry become rampant like weeds in the 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 can learn as much as we teach; for we are as needy as our neighbour, even if in different ways.