12Jul 12 July. Wednesday, Week 14

1st Reading: Genesis 41:55-57, 42:5-7, 17-24

Joseph’s brothers come down to Egypt for food; he sends back for Benjamin

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.”

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.

Gospel: Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus sends his twelve apostles out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel

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.’


Giving and Sharing

From all parts of the famine-stricken middle east, people flocked to Egypt to avoid starvation, for the banks of the Nile were securely irrigated while neighbouring countries shrivelled with drought. Joseph’s brothers joined this stream of refugees, which suggests the mixed ancestry of the people that would eventually come back out of Egypt under the name of Israel. In its very origin Israel was marked by this experience, and by their famine-stricken poverty the original Israelites were linked with people throughout the world.

In God’s ideal kingdom, this world’s produce is meant to be shared by people of every nation; and by goodwill and planning there should be enough for all. Much later in its history, wealthier Israelites might 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 whenever the wealthy let their neighbours go hungry, fearless prophets arose to voice the anger of God, who rescues his poor out of slavery.

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 over Egypt, in a despotic rule that led to the enslavement of Israel.

We need to find ways of sharing in each other’s gifts without losing our personal dignity and sense of equality. Macro-economic measures are needed but are never enough of themselves; the solution must have moral and religious foundations too. Merely legal compliance allows many loopholes and manipulations by the powerful, letting injustice and idolatry grow like weeds in the vineyard. We must go beyond even the measures taken by Joseph in Egypt, remembering that when we give to others, it is a God-willed sharing, not merely giving things away. In this process, we are learning as much as teaching; for we are as needy as our neighbour, even if in different ways.

Spreading the message

Today’s gospel shows how Jesus wants his message to be widely shared. He has shared a meal with Matthew the tax collector and with others who would have been classified as sinners, and certainly not the equal of law-abiding rabbis. He breaks bread with sinners at table, and at the same time breaks open God’s word for them, God’s healing and merciful word. In defence of this he ways, “it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.”

Jesus reveals a God who does not withdraw his living word from us, even when we show ourselves unworthy of it. Sending out his twelve apostles, the Lord continues to speak that word of love and light into the darkest and most troubled places of our lives. He keeps offering us the bread of his word to satisfy our deepest hunger. As he does so, he waits for us to take and eat. {MH}