Our associate pastor suggested an Old Testament reading outside of the Reconciliation Lectionary for the parish’s Lenten Communal Penance this year. I thought I’d include it in our series and invite your comments.
I confess thinking of Donny Osmond at 3:05 of this video. Sans narrator, this is the passage:
Joseph could no longer restrain himself
in the presence of all his attendants,
so he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!”
So no one attended him when he made himself known to his brothers.
But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him,
and so the news reached Pharaoh’s house.
“I am Joseph,” he said to his brothers.
“Is my father still alive?”
But his brothers could give him no answer,
so dumbfounded were they at him.
“Come closer to me,” Joseph told his brothers.
When they had done so, he said:
“I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
But now do not be distressed,
and do not be angry with yourselves for having sold me here.
It was really for the sake of saving lives
that God sent me here ahead of you.
The famine has been in the land for two years now,
and for five more years cultivation will yield no harvest.
God, therefore, sent me on ahead of you
to ensure for you a remnant on earth
and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance.
So it was not really you but God who had me come here;
and he has made me a father to Pharaoh,
lord of all his household,
and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.
My colleague has yoked this reading with Psalm 32 and the account of Jesus meeting Zacchaeus. Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers is intriguing. I wonder how the homilist will handle this.
These things strike me about the passage, besides that musical:
- If Joseph reveals something of God, it is God’s deep desire for reconciliation with us. When we finally realize God is before us, does the Almighty weep in anticipation for what is to come?
- The echo of Joseph’s “Come closer” in Jesus’ “Come down quickly.” Is the sinner always beckoned so? Are we prepared to listen?
- It is the wronged one who counsels those who have sinned against him not to be distressed or angry with themselves. Is that Joseph’s arrogance again? Or is that the attitude we can cultivate with others? Would that be part of our reconciliation experience, letting go of grudges, even to the point of this tender awareness of how sin has harmed others deeply.
- Lastly, is Joseph’s justification: God wanted him in Egypt all along to save the world (so we are told). Being sold into slavery was the means to an end.
This last point makes me a little nervous. God could have easily worked through a theoretical situation in which Joseph arrives in Egypt as a traveling sales rep for the family wool business. (Though maybe the brothers back home needed to feel those pangs of hunger after what they did.)
Perhaps that justification is something to keep in mind when we are forced to do things or go places because of another’s offense.
I confess I like this reading, and not just because it features my Old Testament name saint so prominently. What do you readers think? A keeper for the sacrament? Stick with the usual new heart/new spirit theme?