Grace to you!
Yesterday we reflected on how envy rips the envious of blessings. Today's reflection uses the example of Joseph to show a virtuous response to the envious.
We read from Genesis 45:1-5 how Joseph responded to the envy of his brothers, who wished him dead and actually sold him to become slave in a foreign land. Scripture describes his response when, finally, his brothers came to him not recognizing he was their brother they sold. Joseph had been so blessed, his dreams had materialized, so much so that he had become the second in command after Pharaoh, as well as the governor in charge of the allocation of food in the entire provinces of Egypt.
Note that Joseph had acquired all the power, connections and wealth to destroy his brothers if he wanted to follow that route. He had all the powers to enslave them or put them in prison or even execute them if he chose to do so. Also, he could play the distant vindictive tactic of simply ignoring them or refusing giving them food, thereby allowing them to starve to death. In short, there were many cards he could have played to pay his brothers back and still be justified as the victim.
For many of us, any of these options could be a possible route to take. The natural temptation to get even is in all hearts. But what distinguishes the virtuous from the ungodly, the great from the petty, is the realization that evil is evil no matter where it is found and who does it. Whether the person is a pope or an alter boy, a cheerleader or a queen, a king or a servant, a religious or an atheist, evil is evil. Bitter vengeance is bitter vengeance. Two wrongs can never make a right.
Paying back envy in the spirit of bitter revenge is like eating from the same plate of the envious. It doesn’t make us basically different from the envious. While envy is a sin against charity, retaliatory, bitter vengeance goes against charity too. In addition, it is a sin against justice, since such bitter retaliation springs from anger (wrath) and is the opposite of charity. Romans 12:19 admonishes us to leave vengeance to God. Tough advice to keep, but a holy one.
In Joseph we see a true virtuous man and a good example to follow. His response to his brothers was brilliant. Exemplary. First he was very emotional and happy to have been reunited with his brothers after many years, despite their evil actions against him. "His tears of joy were loud and overflowing so much so the Egyptians and Pharaoh's household heard it (Gn 45:2).
Second he looked his brothers in the eye who could hardly say a word, and said, "Come near to me, I beg you.... And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life." (Gn 45:4-5). Incredible! God bless his heart.
Not only did Joseph reach out by closing the divide, he saw all things in the light of God's ultimate plan “to preserve life.” For Joseph, “All things work unto good for those who love God" (Rm 8:28).
If we are victims of jealous envy, may we remember that it’s more blessed to nip evil in the bud; and by so doing, preserve life than to pay back in the same coin, thereby hampering life. This may not be a popular message in our world where many want to get even. However, it is a virtuous and godly message. Holiness of life is the vocation of all, more so for believers. What better way to practice virtue than to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgiveable, and not get even with one who has hurt us?
Praying for the grace of charity, forgiveness and healing. Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Thursday Week 14 A: Gn 44:18-21, 23B-29; 45:1-5: Mt 10:7-15]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.