Scripture: Lectionary 386. Genesis 44:18-21.23-29. 45:1-5. Psalm 105:16-17,18-19,20-21. Matthew 10:7-15:
In my estimation the saga or collection of stories and traditions about Joseph the favored son of Jacob are among my favorites in that first book of the Bible. I often see in him an image of the Joseph who is the spouse of Mary in the New Testament and who has some of the same virtues. Both the Church and the Society of Mary to which I belong have always had a special devotion and affection for the person of Joseph even though what is written about him is mostly found in the few passages that Matthew dedicates to him. He does appear in Luke and is merely mentioned in John as the father of Jesus by those who really do not know the origins of Jesus. Mark does not mention him at all but tells us that Jesus the son of Mary was a carpenter. We used an expression from the Genesis saga about Joseph the patriarch that is expressed in Latin: Ite ad Joseph; this refers to have recourse to this saint whenever we are in need. Recently, the new Pope Francis has added the name of Joseph to the Euchristic Prayers after the remembrance of Mary. He added “blessed Joseph her spouse.”
Thomas Mann wrote a book on Joseph called Joseph and His Brothers. Though we usually call chapters 37-50:26 the story of Joseph, it is more proper to consider the following chapters as the Joseph saga or tradition: chapters 37, 39-45, and parts of 46-50 which also contains the traditions about Joseph’s father Jacob.
Our Psalm Response is the best verse from the historical Psalm about Joseph:”Remember the marvels the Lord has done.” (Psalm 105:5) This verse captures the happening of Joseph meeting his brothers for the last time in Egypt where he reveals himself to them. They are so amazed that they cannot speak and tell him what he wants to know about his father. It will be Joseph who eventually makes sure that his father is buried in the Land God gave to his ancestor Abraham.
We get a good portrait of Joseph by reading the saga and learn about his early days when he boasts about his dreams as having authority over his brothers. His coat of many colors becomes the sign of revenge when his brothers cover it with animal blood and tell Jacob that his son has been mauled and devoured by a beast. Fortunately, that was not the case, and he eventually is sold in Egypt but rises to become the vizier of Pharao. He will save his people and family from hunger by his great ability of service to those who need, hence, the expression, “Go to Joseph.”
I always think of Saint Joseph when I read the Joseph story of Genesis. He, too, was a man of dreams. His dreams led him to protect the Holy Family and to avoid the threats of Herod and Herod’s son.
We thank St. Matthew for his Infancy Narrative which gives us Joseph’s place in the genealogy and also the scenes he shares with Mary and her child.
Let us return to the Joseph son of Jacob in Genesis with this appropriate summary and sketch of him: “A very high place must be given Joseph among the early founders of his race. In strength of high purpose he was second to none, whilst in graces of reverence and kindness, of insight and assurance, he became the type of a faith that is at once personal and national (Heb. 11:22), and allows neither misery nor a career of triumph to eclipse the sense of Divine destiny.” R.W.Moss.