We last reflected on Paul's words of praise about Jesus in Colossians 1:12-20. John has a similar reflection at the beginning of his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
Let's intersperse the two passages:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is the image of the invisible God.
He was with God in the beginning. He is the firstborn over all creation. Through him all things were made, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. He is the firstborn from among the dead. God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.
For reflection: What does it mean that Jesus is God made visible? Adam and Eve had spoken to God face-to-face, as had Moses. But now all could see Jesus, image of the invisible God. The fullness of God was in him.
Let us pray. Invisible made visible, show yourself to me today. Let me see your face.
In the 3rd chapter of Galatians, which is certainly a difficult one, Paul contrasts the law with the promise given to Abraham and the law with faith in God/Christ. In both cases, the law is the loser. The promise to Abraham is greater than the law and faith in Christ is greater than the law.
Let us pray. Lord, you have lavished me with your love
We have been speaking of Joseph and his brothers for a while and the terrible thing they did to him. We noted how Joseph forgave them, and their father forgave them. But did they forgive themselves and change their ways?
Well, they still weren't above a little deceit. When their father died they were afraid that Joseph would rescind his forgiveness and start taking revenge on them. So they told Joseph that their father Jacob, on his deathbed, asked for Joseph to forgive them. Joseph wept when he heard this from them for he had truly forgiven them and thought that was behind them all.
Why had they been unsure of his forgiveness? I think it was because they still had not forgiven themselves. Their own lack of forgiveness reared its ugly head as suspicion of Joseph. Then they slipped back into their habit of lying to get what they wanted.
For reflection: It can be hard to break out of habitual ways of relating to one other. If forgiving others and forgiving ourselves becomes our habit, then other habits like lying will disappear.
Let us pray. "His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers" (Luke 1:50-55).
Of the 12 sons of Jacob, 9 had conspired to sell Joseph into slavery. Another one participated in the cover up. It was a terrible sin, but they were forgiven both by Joseph and by God. From those 12 came the nation of Israel. God did not choose 12 men who were without sin, he chose 12 who knew the power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness restored the relationship of the brothers to Joseph. Forgiveness restored the relationship of the guilty sons to their father. They had lied to their father and kept it secret for many years. No doubt if Joseph had not forgiven his brothers, his father would not have forgiven them either. Forgiveness saved their lives. Had Joseph not forgiven them, they never could have gotten the food in Egypt that saved them from the famine.
For reflection: Forgiveness still has that power today. It has the power to restore relationships and save lives. It has power across miles, across generations, across time, death and eternity. Whom do I need to forgive?
Let us pray. Father, I thank you for showing me the way to forgiveness. It is possible to even forgive people who have tried to kill me, or who wished me dead, or who have lied to me for years. With your help, I choose to forgive.
Often when I pray with people it seems that they think God has "put them through tough times" deliberately in order to develop their character, help them grow, or whatever.
Let's take a look at this concept through the lens of Joseph's story. If this concept is true, then God meant for Joseph to be sold into slavery in order to punish him for sin, or develop his character and turn him into a great leader, or even just to get him to Egypt from his homeland.
First, if all God wanted was to get Joseph from Canaan to Egypt, God could have done that any number of ways without putting Joseph through turmoil and suffering.
Second, Joseph's suffering helped to develop his character and abilities as a leader, but God is not the one who sold him into slavery, or falsely accused him, or put him in prison. People did that, not God.
Third, clearly God was with Joseph throughout this time. Genesis 39:2-3 tell us that God was with Joseph in Potiphar's house and that Potiphar recognized this fact and that Joseph was a blessing to him. In Genesis 39:21, it clearly says that God was with Joseph in prison where he rose to a leadership position and he had favor with the warden. When Joseph went to work for Pharaoh, it became obvious that God had raised him to that position to save Egypt from the famine. God was continually blessing Joseph, not punishing him.
Finally, Joseph himself recognized that what his brothers had done to him was not the work of God. "You meant evil against me; but God has used it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive," Joseph tells his brothers after they are reconciled (Genesis 50:20). The evil, the slavery, the imprisonment were not God's doing. As with Joseph, God is with us in our trials, with us in our suffering.
For reflection: How has God been with me in my trials? For what problems am I blaming God?
Let us pray. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness
"We sold him for a pittance. We expected him to die. He forgave us anyway." I can just hear Joseph's brothers telling the story to each other, to their friends, to their sons and daughters. When the whole family got together over dinner, this was the story they told, generation after generation. It was a story of forgiveness they could never have believed if they hadn't experienced it themselves.
What happened? In a nutshell, the jealous older brothers sold their younger brother Joseph to slave traders. Knowing that the slavers would treat their brother harshly in the desert, the brothers never expected that Joseph would make it to the slave market. But he did. He was bought in Egypt, had a rough life, and then, through a series of divine appointments, became the second most important man in Egypt. When a famine came over his homeland, the brothers came to Egypt looking for food. What they found was Joseph. And forgiveness. (Joseph's story is told in Genesis 37-50.)
For reflection: Where does this kind of forgiveness come from? What stories of forgiveness can I tell from my own life?
Let us pray. Father of Forgiveness, you lead me in ways in would not choose for myself. If not for you, I would not choose forgiveness; I would not choose to let go. But with your strength and your help I choose to forgive.
Grandparents often joke with their children about getting the same kind of children they were, especially if they were rascals. "Just you wait," they say. "Your children will be just like you when you were growing up." Often that is true.
Let's continue to look at Jacob and his life for a moment. Yes, Jacob showed favoritism among his sons and they were rivals for his affection. Where might he have experienced favoritism and sibling rivalry in his own life? Jacob had a twin brother named Esau. He and Esau were rivals for their parents' affection. The Scripture tells us that Esau was a hunter and a man of the open country while Jacob was a quiet man who stayed at home. Their father Isaac loved Esau, and their mother Rebekah loved Jacob.
So Jacob grew up with favoritism being shown by his parents and in rivalry with his brother Esau (Genesis 25:19 -27:45). As a father himself, Jacob showed favoritism among his sons and experienced rivalry among them too. His boys turned out just like him and his brother Esau.
For reflection: What habits of my parents have I carried forward into my life? Are they good or bad habits?
Let us pray. Father God, I thank you for my parents. I thank you for the love they showed to me and that they did their best to raise me to adulthood. I thank you for being my Father also, for keeping me under your wing even today.
I ask you to help me forgive my parents for not being everything that I needed them to be. I repent of judging them for what they did and did not do. I forgive them for not being perfect parents. (It is important to forgive them as specifically as you can in this type of prayer.) I ask you, Father, to bring to my mind the other things for which I need to forgive my parents. (Pay attention to memories that come up in the next couple of weeks. As God brings these to mind, forgive your parents for them.)
I repent of carrying on my parents' bad habits in my own life and with my children. Forgive me for the bad ways I have acted toward my children (again, be specific and pay attention to memories that arise in the next couple of weeks). Help me to see my children through your loving eyes, Father. You are the only perfect Father. Help me to be more like you.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.