(Optional Memorial of Saint Patrick, Bishop)
|“Joseph Sold into Slavery by his Brothers” by Károly Ferenczy, 1900|
Reading I: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a
Commentary on Gn37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a
This is the final storyline from Genesis. It is the story of Joseph, the son of Israel, being taken and sold into slavery by his brothers.
"Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery. Ch 37 begins the story of Joseph, a figure who dominates most of the remaining narrative in Genesis. In structure, the Joseph story is quite different from the preceding material centering on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Whereas the latter takes the form, predominantly, of small, self-contained passages, the story of Joseph resembles a coherent novella, with a subtle and well-crafted plot.
"Its theology, too, is different. Whereas the patriarchal narrative is replete with appearances of God or His messengers, and oracles from them, Joseph never sees or hears God or His messengers [...] Rather, God works here in a hidden way, secretly guiding the course of human events, even bringing good out of human evil 50.20).
"Lastly, whereas the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob take place in Canaan and Mesopotamia, the novella of Joseph and his brothers takes place mostly in Egypt. The events that result in the return to the promised land will begin only after Joseph's death."
The story is actually told by both authors of Genesis, the Yahwist and the Elohist, and there are some inconsistencies as a result (specifically which brother tried to save him). On the main points they agree. Instead of killing Joseph as they had initially intended, they sold him to Ishmaelites (Arabs) who took him as a slave to Egypt.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
Commentary on Ps 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Psalm 105 is a historical hymn that recalls, in this selection, the Genesis story (Genesis 37:3ff), speaking of the fate of Joseph in Egypt and how God rescued and supported him in his slavery. It also recounts the actions of Joseph’s brothers, selling him into slavery in Egypt and speaks of the rise of Joseph in the house of Pharaoh.
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Commentary on Mt 21:33-43, 45-46
In the Parable of The Wicked Husbandmen from Matthew, Jesus reflects upon God's invitation to the Jewish people. The tenants who wish to first withhold what they owe and then kill the son of the land owner so they can take his inheritance reflect jealousy and greed, a thinly veiled allusion to Jesus' rejection by the chief priests and the elders of the people.
This story is an allegory of Christ’s mission and purpose. God sent him to open the gates of heaven through the forgiveness of sin for all peoples, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. The Jews, seeing themselves as the custodians of salvation, would reject such a messenger, even the Son of God. They would ultimately kill him to maintain their false belief that in doing so they would continue as sole owners of the keys to the kingdom of God.
The symbolism that runs through the parable is rich and we will not try to capture it in this short commentary (see the Archive for more complete analysis)
The scripture today tells us that those who choose to follow the Lord will meet with resistance and possibly death at the hands of those who oppose God’s will. We see it in Genesis; an oral tradition that was handed down from some four thousand years before Christ walked the earth. We hear it from Christ, who related his parable two thousand years ago. We see it around us today.
It is hard for us to understand why people have such impulses. The brothers of Joseph were jealous of his favored status with their father. We can see that. And the tenants in the parable told by Jesus were driven by greed. That too is a human emotion we can understand. Where we find difficulty is in those who attack us and our beliefs because of what we represent. In case you are wondering where this thought came from, I direct your attention to the New York Times Best Seller List.
When doing some research on this topic a couple of years ago I went to a web source called Science News Online. There in the banner at the top of the page was a flashing advertisement, from a publisher (aptly) named Prometheus Books, promoting their most recent best seller: “God: The Failed Hypothesis “ subtitled “How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.”
We must wonder why a person (the author claims to be a physicist) would first wish to attack belief in God (a God coincidently that loves him as well). And second, why a publisher would take such a work to the public, and finally why a publication claiming to be an objective source would advertise it. We can also see a more current example in the attacks on organizations that do not embrace the newly coined “Gender Diversity.” Some of these groups face even governmental opposition to insuring the teaching of the Church on sexual morality is upheld by those called to minister in Catholic Schools as teachers.
If, as we follow our own blissful spirituality of Lent, we feel that the evil one has ignored us, we only need to look at things like this to know that he has taken a more insidious approach. I am sure zealous people of faith will refute the “science” that the person who wrote the book chooses to support his claims. And the atheistic community will rise up and squeal: “See how the Christians try to suppress logic and degrade true science with their superstitions.” They will twist the truth and, perhaps for a day, gain some strength. Our best defense is to continue to proclaim, in a humble and compassionate way, the love of God, a love so great that he gave his only Son, knowing that the people he loved would deny him and claim he did not exist. (As an aside, if you get a chance, we highly recommend the recent film Risen, the fictional account of the Roman Tribune responsible for the cohort that crucified Christ. It’s a good story.)
 The picture is “Joseph Sold into Slavery by his Brothers” by Károly Ferenczy, 1900
 The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, © 2004, pp. 74