Peace in Turmoil
In the first reading for today, we hear the beginning of the familiar narrative about Joseph and his brothers who loathe him. This account is an excellent example of God’s desire to draw near to his people in the midst of tumultuous experiences. This is the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, who will be sold into slavery. The same Joseph who, through God’s presence with him, correctly interprets dreams. This is the Joseph who will rise in status to be the chief administrator to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Yet, while Joseph is the main character of this story, his perspective, emotions, and reactions are completely void from this part of the text. This is an interesting omission; from this same text, we can know the thoughts and emotions of all the other key players in this story.
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To begin with, Joseph’s father is filled with love for his son. He demonstrates this love by giving Joseph a coat of many colors. This special gift is a public declaration that Joseph is his father’s favorite son.
As for the brothers, they are filled with envy and hate for Joseph. They act out of this hatred first by plotting to kill Joseph, but then settle to sell him to slavery instead. In the midst of making this devious plan, they sit down to eat as though nothing is wrong. This highlights the extreme callousness of the brothers.
Finally, Reuben, the eldest brother, shows mercy by convincing the brothers to spare Joseph’s life. From the text, Reuben’s motives for this are unclear. Perhaps Reuben is acting out of selfishness because he wants to regain favor with his father. Or maybe Reuben is filled with compassion and simply wants to save his brother.
But what about Joseph? Of course, the things that physically happened to him are clear. But, during this vortex of conflict, what does Joseph feel? How does he react? The text does not clearly say. I know how I would react…it would not be pretty. As I interpret this story of Joseph, I project the natural feelings of fear, despair, and sorrow on him. But amidst those, I also project peace, hope, and solace. I believe that he can experience both of these opposing sets of emotions because God is with Joseph, and Joseph resides in His presence. That changes everything.
In the midst of our busy lives, emotions and reactions can swirl within and around us. How do we respond? Are we able to experience the peace, hope and solace that the presence of God can bring, even in the middle of chaos and uncertainty?
In this Lenten season, I pray that we remember that God can and will help us balance discomfort and discord. I pray that each of us are able to anchor our actions, reactions, and emotions in the peace that God’s presence brings.
Author: Sara Krusekopf, Math Department, Campus Ministry Team