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.
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.