21Mar 21st March. Friday in the Second Week of Lent

21st March. Friday in the Second Week of Lent

1) Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13 17-28

(Jacob’s sons envy their brother Joseph, and sell him into slavery)

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

(In a wild property-grab, violent tenants kill the landowner’s son.)

“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.

The one they rejected became the chosen one.

The long saga of Joseph (Gen 37-50) has one overriding motif, which is the reason why he can forgive his brothers what they did to him: “God meant it for good, to achieve his purpose, the survival of many people” (50:19-20). Mysteriously God caused that turbulent life to overflow with a blessing, even for Joseph’s enemies who wished him harm. With Joseph’s help the twelve tribes were established in Egypt where they developed their distinctive pattern of faith. In Jesus’ case, his being implacably rejected by the Jewish leaders led to a new and more glorious Israel, joining Jew and Gentile into a united family of God, the church.

The stories of Joseph and of Jesus exemplify God’s providence in iconic fashion. A divine plan stirs in the depth of our existence. At times we may have a passing glimpse of it, perhaps when taking time for prayer or when out walking and thinking about life, yet always we are being directed and guided by its quiet prompting. Jesus refers to this plan of his Father by frequent references to what was foretold in the Scriptures. And he is convinced that this divine plan triumphs over all resistance, as when “The stone which the builders rejected has become the very keystone. It was the Lord who did this and we find it marvellous to behold!”

Our Lenten effort of fasting and prayer have meaning insofar as they serve to purify our minds and hearts and so put us into closer touch with the depths of ourselves where God’s healing power resides. Selfish ambition, sensuality and over-confidence should be quietly swept aside so we can dream the ideals planted in us by God. We can find serenity even in the face of old age, ill-health and other problems, trusting like Joseph, and like Jesus, that “God has meant all this for our good.”