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Israel Loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.
God is so unfair! In most of the Old Testament, God is very fair: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That's pretty fair. And that's as close as we can get to justice.
But the story of Joseph and his brothers is one of a handful of stories in the Old Testament that are not fair at all, at least not in the way Joseph handles it.
What drives you mad? Joseph's brothers were driven to madness out of jealousy and envy of him. They couldn't stand the fact that their kid brother was loved the most by their father and that he was a man on a mission, with goals and lofty dreams. Their madness turned to sarcasm, "Here comes that master dreamer!"
What is driving you mad? What is occupying more and more of your heart each day? Is it jealousy? Envy? Greed? Be careful. These things can easily consume your mind, body and soul. If these things have taken over your life, then it is time to go and make a good confession.
Now some of the finer details contained in this story may seem a bit foreign to us. For example: cisterns, Ishmaelites and twenty pieces of silver. But the story in its substance rings all too familiar for me as a priest. Far too many family members are currently in a feud among themselves, and far too many children hate their siblings and wish they would die! Often, the responses among family members are far too, well, just...and like I said before, justice may be fair, but it isn't inspiring or beautiful. It is simply "there."
Joseph remained silent. While being viciously beaten and attacked by his brothers, Joseph would have been in the right to have cussed out his brothers. It would have been completely understandable if he held anger, bitterness and resentment towards them for the rest of his life. And after having been dumped into a dry cistern to die, it would have been fair of him to seek God's wrath upon them or promise sweet revenge.
But he didn't. He didn't do any of it. And that was surprising to me. It was also totally unfair of him.
His strong faith in God enabled him to bit his tongue. His love for God enabled him to show forgiveness, compassion and mercy on his brothers.
Now don't think for a moment that Joseph knew how his story was going to end. He didn't. He didn't have a clue what was going to happen next. He simply placed his life in God's hands.
So why did the Church, in all her wisdom, consider it unwise to read the entire story today? Why did it leave out Joseph's triumph and his unforgettable forgiveness? Why did it end with Joseph being sold for twenty silver pieces (does this sound familiar???). Why can't we savor the moment Joseph reveals himself to his starving brothers? Why are we left with only half his story, the most bitter half?
I think it is because this is how life is. It never comes all at once. Rather, we must live it one chapter at a time - one day at a time - and never quite sure how it will all come together in the end.
This is where faith comes in. This is where love must come in.
How do you respond to trials and tribulations? With faith or with sin? How do you respond to evil and hatred? Fairly or unfairly?
Are you allowing God to write your own story or are you forcing his hand?
Are you falling into temptation? Given today's scriptural readings, I think we can safely say that falling into temptation means rewriting God's ending to our story. Of course we must do everything in our power to defeat evil. But fighting evil with evil is forcing God's hand.
Heavenly Father, this Lent I ask you for the grace to be driven by your love and to be driven to your forgiveness. Amen.