The very nature of God and his ways with us cause us both joy and discomfort. Who can hear Jesus telling us to love our enemies, be generous with the ungrateful, and kind to those who hurt us without wincing at the memory of our resentment and even retaliation? There is inevitable suffering in the lives of the meek and humble.
The figure of Joseph and his life of rejection, enslavement, false accusation, and unjust punishment anticipates the experience of Jesus himself. It is only from the perspective of God’s eternal purpose that we can see and accept even the worst things that happen to us. It is only from the gift of grace and revelation of God’s redeeming love that we can understand and share in the love both Joseph and Jesus gave to those who persecuted them. Jesus forgave those who crucified him, and Joseph forgave his brothers who treated him so cruelly. As the brothers of Joseph were frightened and confused by Joseph’s identity and love, so we are likely to be stressed and uneasy when faced with the example and challenge of Jesus.
Joseph’s warning rings true for us, “Don’t quarrel on the way.” How often is it true for us that we do quarrel on the way through our lives in our relationships with other people? Let us rush to claim the promise of God as illuminated by St. Paul: just as we have been marked by that which is in rebellion against God, so God’s gift for us is to receive that which is of the kingdom of love.