We come to the end of the cycle of readings from the Book of Genesis this morning with the story surrounding the death of Jacob and the death of his son Joseph. Joseph’s brothers express fear once their father is dead thinking that he will now retaliate against them for their betrayal. Joseph recognizes that they meant to harm him, but he reminds them that “God meant it for good.”
In the face of evil, Joseph sees that God has taken care of him and even used these events to bring about God’s plan of salvation. Scholars have identified Joseph’s insight as critical for interpreting God’s relationship with his people in the Hebrew Scriptures. Just as hard times befell Joseph, the Israelites also suffer many things: wandering in the desert, evil kings, enslavement in Babylon and much more. Through these experiences of suffering, persecution and abandonment, Joseph’s insight offers a key to the Israelites; namely, even when others might try to harm them, God can use evil to bring about good so they need not be afraid.
This insight is also helpful in understanding the Gospel passage we read today. While they are on mission preaching, the apostles will also experience suffering, persecution and abandonment by family and friends. Three times Jesus exhorts his disciples: “Do not be afraid.” Yes, the struggles and the suffering are real. However, God walks with us in the midst of our suffering. While there are those that believe that a good God would not allow suffering, the reality is that God has only promised to be with us in the midst of the trials.
If there were no suffering in this life, what would spur us on to attain heaven? All the trials that are related to us in the Scriptures are simply a testimony of the reality of being human. By becoming one of us, God has shown us that he understands.
As we celebrate the Eucharist today, we celebrate the promise of God’s love.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator