Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)
(Click here for readings)
By Benedict Augustine
“‘Alas, we are being punished because of our brother. We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us,
yet we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has now come upon us.’”
Great men will elicit two different reactions from the people around them: admiration or envy. Those with a humble disposition will welcome the great man and show admiration. They will elevate that individual to his proper place and seek to imitate his virtues. In contrast, proud people will envy the great man. They will downplay his virtues—even to the point of putting virtue itself into doubt—and find a way to eliminate him.
The book of Genesis features many such examples of great men suffering at the hands of envious people. To name a few: Cain envied his brother Abel; Hagar and Sarah envied one another in turn; and Esau envied Jacob and vice versa. Now, unsurprisingly, all of Jacob’s older children envy their younger brother Joseph. Joseph has won the attention of his father and God, receiving a colorful coat from the former and prophetic dreams from the latter.
Joseph’s brothers, proud men who felt entitled to this kind of attention by virtue of their age and superior numbers, “hated him so much that they could not even say a kind word to him” (Gn 37:4). Envy fueled their hatred causing them to hate not what he did, but who he was. Joseph made them feel inadequate, less significant, less loved; like all envious people, they projected this frustration outwardly instead of reflecting on it inwardly. Thus, they dump him in a well before thinking better of it and selling him as a slave to their cousins, the Ishmaelites.
Remorse for this brutal action comes much later when they must migrate into Egypt for food because of famine in their homeland. They must supplicate the governor of Egypt, who happens to be their despised brother Joseph whom they fail to recognize, for a ration of bread. As the circumstances change so does their attitude. Begging for mercy themselves causes them to think of people asked the same mercy of them, like their younger brother so many years ago.
At that moment, they finally realize that envy drove their actions and made them lesser men than their brother. This truth, brought on by God, them and leads to their repentance.
At the same time, God does opposite for Joseph, exulting him even higher.Joseph enjoyed his father and God’s favors before, but it is here that he reallyproves his greatness. He has the perfect opportunity to avenge himself on his brothers, yet he does not even think of this. When he hears Rueben and his brothers repent of their action, he cries and makes plans to forgive them.
For this reason, Joseph serves as a type prefiguring Jesus. Like Joseph, Jesus must suffer the wrath of envious people. While a few souls admire Jesus, like His disciples, and imitate His example, many more despise Jesus and Hisgreatness and want to crucify Him. Their pride provokes envy, and their envy provokes wrath.
Nevertheless, as with Joseph, God exalts the humble and gives Jesus and Hisdisciples the power to forgive. Although they have every reason to avenge themselves of such people, they seek to forgive them. Knowing that humility and repentance must precede forgiveness, Jesus commands his disciples to preach repentance to their audiences in order to prepare them for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The disciples are sent to preach to the lost tribes of Israel, descendants of Joseph’s brothers. They will find some of them hungry for the Word and ready to repent of their sins while they will find others still angry and ready to throw them down a well. On a spiritual level, a feast awaits those who repent while famine will haunt those who reject the gospel.
God’s children seem to forget that they enjoy a special privilege that arouses the envy of others. They receive the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; they receive the gifts of grace from the sacraments; their souls are fed by Jesus’ Body and Blood; they are never alone. God has made His children great. In return, He expects them to show the same magnanimity as His Son. Satan willtry to block the senses of the unconverted, but Catholics can—and should—overcome this stubbornness with patience and confidence that God will help them break these hard hearts and allow them to finally heal.