Reading (Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a)††
Gospel (St. Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46)
When we look at the first reading today, we see that Joseph goes out into the desert to his brothers, who then plot against him to kill him. Deciding not to kill him, they simply sell him instead and give him to Ishmaelites, which was always an interesting point to consider.† When you think that Ishmael was the other son of Abraham and only a couple of generations before Ishmael had been thrown out of the family, in essence, with his mother, Hagar, these are people who would have had a vendetta; and to be able to find someone who was from the tribe of Isaac, to be able to buy that person as a slave, this would have been a great way of being able to get even for somebody who wanted to take revenge. So to sell him to the Ishmaelites is a particularly dastardly thing to do.
When we see what his own brothers are doing as they plot against him and sell him off with the intent of killing him, then we can look at Jesus and we see the exact same pattern. Jesus comes to His own people and they plot against Him to kill Him. As we know, one of His own, Judas, actually does sell Him and the whole situation winds up being very similar. We also know that in the end Joseph tells his brothers, ďEven though you may have had bad intentions, in Godís providence, it was His intention that I would be brought down here in order that the whole world would be saved,Ē Ė saved, in that sense, from the famine. Because of the dreams that Joseph had been able to interpret and to know what was happening, he was placed in charge of the government and was able to store up the grain so the whole world would be able to eat during the time of the famine that was to come. It was all part of Godís providence. It was not understood at the time when Joseph was sold, and I am sure there were times when Joseph was not too impressed to be in Egypt, to be in prison, to be treated the way that he was, and yet in Godís providence it was all part of his preparation so that he would be able to do the work that God had prepared for him.
The same is true of Jesus. Of course, He knew exactly what He was here for and what He was doing, but the people around Him did not. So it was for the apostles to see the way that Our Lord was treated, in fact, the way that they themselves treated Him at times. It was not so much a matter of preparing Jesus for the work that He was to do (because He did not need the preparation) but it was preparing the apostles to be able to see the way Jesus handled the situations, to be able to see the lessons He taught them from those situations, and then be able to recognize, after the Resurrection, what they themselves had done to Our Lord, how they had treated Him, and the way things had worked out at their own hands. They could then recognize how God was going to use their own weakness to become a strength.
Now we look at our own selves. We see the difficult things that we have to go through in our lives, and we see that God has already laid out a pattern from thousands of years go with Joseph, to two thousand years ago with Jesus, to the life of every single saint who has ever lived, and right down to our own day. God allows difficult things to happen in our lives, things that seem unjust, things that are very difficult to be able to accept, things that we do not understand when they happen. And as typically happens, we fight against it, as it would have been with Joseph; he probably, as I mentioned, was not too impressed with being a slave and being in prison and having all the other things happen. We tend not to be too terribly impressed with a lot of the things that happen to us. Yet when we look back after whatever time of preparation God has worked in us, we see what God was doing with all of this, we see the good that He was bringing out of it, and how He was working in our lives this way. Then we understand, and then we can even thank Him for what it is that He did to prepare us, for the very thing that we kicked and screamed and complained about some months or years earlier when it was happening to us. Suddenly, we find ourselves being grateful to God for allowing such things to happen in order to prepare us for the work that we were to do.
We see the pattern of how God used Joseph to spare the whole world and what He did with Jesus to save the whole world. And not that He is going to ask us to do anything even close, but nonetheless, He is going to ask of each one of us to do the work that He desires of us to do, which is to do the Will of God. That is what He asked of Joseph; that is what He asked of Jesus; it is just on a different level than what He is asking of us. He wants us to do His work and He allows us to struggle along and to suffer and so on to be prepared for the work that we are called to do. So we need to learn to accept the things that happen. We need to learn to see them as part of Godís providence and offer them to God and allow Him to work in our lives as He prepares us for the work that He has for us and prepares us for what is after that work, as He purifies us and perfects us, so that we will do His work in this world and we will be prepared for entrance into Heaven after this life.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.