Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘famine’


Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

Read Full Post »


Mark 8:1-11Nothing to Fear

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus feeds thousands from a few fish and several loaves of bread; yet we store up food and goods against the fear that we will one day be without.  Famine grips the horn of Africa and the people who live there wait on the generosity of others; and despite the abundance in which others live, these images stir some to sharing and others to hoarding.  In either case, we fear that we will one day be without.   Today’s Mass readings deal with the intense fear that seizes us when cataclysm strikes and we fear the worst.  The homily we heard at Mass today was moving.  Father reminded us that although we seek physical signs of God’s presence . . . we do not see the markers God constantly posts along the route of our journey.  Fear has the effect of eliminating sight and reason.

In 1 Kings 19:9a-13a, Elijah hides in a cave, fearing that Queen Jezebel’s men will find him and execute him in the same way she has put to death other prophets.  God calls to Elijah that it is time for him to come out of his hiding place.  Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  And Elijah hears the Lord not in the tumult of the storm or the crashing of the earthquake, but in the whisper of the gentle wind.

In Romans 9:1-5, Paul bears witness to God’s presence even though he suffers great anguish.  Rather than succumb to fear, Paul continues to tell the good news story that Christ is risen and present.  He persists in responding to God who first called him in the bolt of blinding light in Acts 9 when he says to him: Get up and go into the city, you will be told what you must do.  Paul finds God in the blinding light.

In Matthew 14:22-23, the apostles become frightened during a storm that threatens to swamp their boat.  Jesus walks toward them over the water and says: Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.  Peter gets out of the boat to walk toward Jesus but doubt overtakes him and he begins to sink.  Immediately Jesus reaches to pull him to the water’s surface.  Peter finds God in his willingness to risk the dangers of the storm-tossed waters.

God is constantly telling us that we need not be afraid . . . yet we cannot hear the voice for the cacophony of the world.

God is constantly showing us that God is with us . . . yet we cannot see God for the blinding confusion of the world.

God is constantly proving to us that God wants to heal and rescue us . . . yet we cannot feel God’s presence for the fears that we harbor.

Our daily experiences frighten us and so we ask God to give us a sign that God is present . . . forgetting that God already is.  God feeds us daily.

We allow the details of living to stir up so much fear that we can no longer hear or see or touch the goodness and providence of God . . . and still God says to us: Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.  

We fret over minutiae, we become anxious about events that are too overwhelming for us to handle, anxiety overtakes us . . . and still God says to us: My heart is moved with pity for you have been with me many days now and have come a long distance . . . do not be afraid for I am always with you . . . I will sustain you . . . you are mine . . . there is nothing to fear. 


A re-post from August 7, 2011.

Images from: http://mtoliveluth.blogspot.com/2010/06/whisper-of-gods-love.html 

Read Full Post »


Saturday, January 12, 2013 – Genesis 42 – The First Journey

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Everyone in this story is tested. 

Jacob’s sons are reluctant to go to Egypt for rations of grain even though they starve.  Jacob speaks to them in this way: Why do you keep gaping at one another?  I hear that rations of grain are available in Egypt.  Go down there and buy some for us, that we may stay alive rather than die of hunger.  Later he must allow the precious smallest son, Benjamin, to return to Egypt with his brothers; this is the condition laid upon them by Joseph.  If some disaster should befall him on the journey you must make, you would send my white head down to the nether world in grief. 

Joseph suffers greatly when he sees his ten brothers who once discussed murdering him before selling him into slavery.  He speaks to them through an interpreter so as to retain his anonymity; his reaction to their conversation is one of deep sadness: Turning away from them, he wept.

As Joseph’s brothers argue over how to proceed, Reuben reminds them that they ought not to have rid themselves of Joseph years earlier: Didn’t I tell you not to do wrong to the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now comes a reckoning for his blood.

Everyone in this story suffers. 

Our culture encourages us to avoid pain at all cost.  We are too often taught that failure is a negative to be circumvented . . . not an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and others.  We regard tests as ordeals . . . we do not see them as opportunities to examine our minds and hearts.  We look upon obstacles as objects to be overcome . . . we do not see constricting circumstances as a lesson plan from God.  We too often see adversity as punishment . . . and we miss the fact that hardship and strife give us an occasion to draw nearer to God. 

We are all tested.  We all suffer.  This is an inherent condition of the human experience.  Later in this story (50:20) Joseph will say to his brothers: Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.  Joseph sees his trials for what they are . . . God’s providence and love converting all harm to good.  Joseph makes this journey first, his brothers and father follow later, completing a passage they had never imagined possible.  They experience loss and sorrow, joy and surprise yet they move forward inexorably . . . hoping to traverse their pain. 

What does all our suffering and testing mean?

We might take time today with this part of the Genesis story to contemplate the sons of Jacob and the many lessons their story contains.  Let us make our own first journey to discover the gift of our misfortune.

For a reflection on Genesis 43 – The Second Journey, the journey of return, visit the November 16, 2011 post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/16/the-second-journey/

 

Read Full Post »


Sunday, October 7, 2012 – Genesis 26 – Settling in Gerar

We might take time today to pause and reflect on the marvelous stories we find in this first Book of the Bible; we see humanity with all foibles and glories.  Today’s Noontime is no exception to this for today we read about Isaac, the precious son of Abraham and Sarah, and we anticipate that we will hear only good of him then we will have miscalculated God and his plan for us.  We will have missed the valuable lesson that the patriarchs and their families who established and passed on the covenant with the Living God are to be seen as ordinary people who make ordinary mistakes in their ordinary lives.  These people about whom we read are us.

When we allow ourselves to spend time with a commentary as we sift through the details of this story, we will see that the players in this drama behave much as we do today when faced with moral, physical and political dilemmas.  They weigh odds and consequences.  They make decisions. They have regrets, experience deep suffering and great joy.  They find that life holds no guarantees as they duplicate the labor of previous generations by re-digging Abraham’s wells.  They plan and execute deceptions and endanger their tribe.  They work toward and achieve success and so become objects of envy; and they are eventually sent away from the place they have made their home.  They are persecuted, separated and marginalized, and they watch all that they have gained through labor move into the hands of others. Their prosperity has become their curse.  Isaac, Rebekah, Abimelech and the others live out their lives struggling against their shifting circumstances and as they do they teach us much. 

There was a famine . . . We too, suffer from famines and dry times in our lives, asking God what we are to do and how we are to do it.

So Isaac settled in Gerar . . . We too, make decisions about our families, our health, our jobs, hoping that we have not missed an important detail.

Isaac was afraid that if the men of the place would kill him on account of Rebekah because she was very beautiful . . . We too, enter into deception impelled by our fears.

 Isaac sowed a crop and reaped a hundredfold that same year and the Philistines became envious of him . . . We too, experience prosperity that can bring problems of its own.

Isaac went up to Beer-sheba . . .We too, move house, change jobs, enter into and leave relationships as life pushes and pulls at the details of our living.

And all the while, as we are re-digging the wells first begun by our ancestors and as we call and count on God, others watch us to see what holds us up through struggling, what brings us peace in turmoil, what sustains us in desperate times.  And we might pray that despite our deceptions, and despite our fears we will have lived a life worth watching.  We may pray that our own Abimelech will come to us to ask: We are convinced that the Lord is with you, so we propose that there be a sworn agreement between our two sides – between you and us. Let us make a pact with you.

And when Abimelech offers this tangible sign of peace, let us also pray that we will be generous in our reply as Isaac is.  And let us hope that we too, prepare a feast of celebration that God has been with us and that despite our weaknesses . . . we have witnessed to the goodness of God. 

To continue reflection on Isaac, Rebekah, and how their lives might mesh with our own, go to the Genesis Chapter 27 post on this blog: (7-19-2011) 

To learn more about Gerar go to: http://bibleatlas.org/gerar.htm or http://www.bibleplaces.com/gerar.htm or http://bibleencyclopedia.com/places/Gerar_wheatfield.htm

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: