Optional Reading: Genesis 42:1-45:15 (The story of Joseph)
Symbol: Grain Sack
“So Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come near me, I pray you.’ And they came near. And he said, ‘I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God set me before you to preserve life.” Gen 45:4-5
The story of Joseph is one of the most powerful and moving stories of the Old Testament. One of 12 brothers, his father’s favorite, has dreams in which he foretells his own ascendency over the rest of his family; his resentful brothers plot his death, but then sell him into slavery. Joseph’s gift of interpreting dreams lifts him out of slavery and prison and puts him at Pharaoh's right hand; his interpretation of the dreams warning of seven years of famine assures that Egypt will come through a time that will devastate its neighbors, and Joseph becomes one of the most powerful men in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. Then his brothers arrive, desperate to buy food--and Joseph’s dream in which he sees his brothers bowing to him comes true at last! But there is no anger or hatred in Joseph’s heart--he sees God’s hand in everything that has happened to him.
Jesus, too, will be hidden in Egypt as a child, returning to His home nation only after Herod is dead. And He, too, will accept the form of a slave and the death of a criminal to set us free. If we wallow in self-hatred on the road to repentance from sin, we are pridefully refusing to be as merciful as our dear Lord, who also reminds us that He has been set before us to preserve our lives.
Optional Reading: Exodus 1:1-14, 3:1-12
Symbol: The Burning Bush
“And Moses said, ‘ I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here am I.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.’” Exodus 3:3-5
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception, when we recall that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from every stain of Original Sin from the first moment of her conception. For Moses to be in God’s presence, he had to witness a miracle, a burning bush that was not consumed; he had to remove his shoes to approach the holy ground. But Christ, our Emmanuel, or God With Us, would come as a helpless baby, carried in His mother’s womb. It is fitting that God prepared Mary for this great privilege by keeping her free from sin, applying the merits of her Son’s Passion and Death on the Cross outside of time to keep her free from sin. Like the miraculous appearance of God to Moses in the desert, the miracle of Mary’s holy and Immaculate Conception illustrates for us that God has the power over nature, over sin, and even over death itself.