Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Come Closer to Me

Readings: Genesis 44:18-21, 23b-29; 45:1-5; Psalms 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21; Matthew 10:7-15

The gospel story of Jesus sending out his twelve disciples is one that we know well. Just this past Sunday we heard a similar account in Luke’s gospel of the sending of seventy-two others. But it’s perhaps not so easy to recognize the ways in which Jesus wishes to send us. The disciples were given power to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers… What powers have we? They were able to travel in poverty, taking not even a few coppers for their purses. That’s a hard act for us to follow, isn’t it? Might we not be easily embarrassed by the contents of our wallets – by those credit cards and cash cards and discount cards of different colours. And, perhaps what’s most difficult to imitate is the kind of serenity that Jesus advises his disciples to adopt in the face of rejection. Can the Lord really be sending us? And, even if he is, is it really possible for us to respond?

Here’s where the story of Joseph might serve as a bridge to our own experience. Joseph has clearly been given power. At this point in the story he has the authority to distribute Pharoah’s grain, to feed the starving people. And yet, we know that even before this power was given him, God had already bestowed upon him the gift of interpreting dreams. And it was by exercising this gift for the benefit of others that Joseph came to possess his current powers in service of a greater number. We may not all have the power to actually raise the dead or to heal the sick or to distribute tons of cash, but have we not each been entrusted with unique gifts and talents meant to help others – such as the ability to listen, to make someone laugh, to do a job well? Are we not called simply to begin by using these gifts, exercising these powers for the good of others, in whichever way we can?

Also, at this point in the story, it’s interesting to see that, even though Joseph has become the second most powerful person in Egypt, he remains humbly reliant upon his God. His past experiences, especially his trials and tribulations prior to his enjoyment of Pharoah’s favour, have helped to cultivate in him a poverty of spirit. He has learnt to trust in God’s care for him, the same God who has brought him to his current position. He knows that things could so easily have turned out differently. Yet God had seen fit to write straight with crooked lines. And so Joseph wears his status lightly. He remembers his brothers, even as he forgets not his God. He forgives them their jealousy and cruelty for he sees God’s hand in all that has gone before. God sent me before you to preserve your lives… And with this insight comes serenity.

Admittedly, probably few of us will dare claim to already be like Joseph. But isn’t this because we are listening to the story when it is already nearing its end? Things were not always so easy for Joseph. And even at this point in the story, Joseph's brothers do not yet see things from God’s perspective. They are dismayed to discover that the one who has power to determine their fate is the half-brother whom they had grievously wronged so many years ago. They need a change of perspective so that they might allow themselves to rejoice in Joseph's good fortune and to be sent to convey the good news to their father. To do this, they must first heed Joseph’s invitation to them to come closer to me. And is this not the Lord’s invitation to us as well? Come closer to me. Let me help you to change your perspective. Let me help you recognize my presence in your life, so that I may send you out to help others...

How might we come closer to him today?

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