Growing up, I was always the tag-a-long brother. My oldest brother Don was almost 3 years older, and Tom was 15 months older… then came me. There was a 4 year gap between my next younger brother John and myself, then on down. As you can imagine, we upper three were the “big boys” and the next three were the “little boys”. Size-wise, the little boys have passed up the big boys… but perhaps is another story. Don and Tom were forced to let me play with them, ride bikes around the subdivision, go to the pool, go down fishing at the river, and on and on… I however, caused them a lot of grief, being irresponsible, not doing my fair share and keeping my clothes and things picked up and put away. I was lumped into bigger than my age group tasks, like digging, spreading gravel, gardening, tie wall building and so on. Our dad didn’t believe in fancy equipment. He believed in shovels and rakes. I was somewhat more sickly with heart issues as a youngster and I suppose I was babied because of it. Then being grouped with the “big boys” had to chafe them a bit. In reality, I bet I never really “helped” or “worked” quite as much as I thought I did. But, they never threw me into a well or sold me into slavery… thank goodness!
Today’s readings (GN 41:55–42:24, MT 10:1–7) tell the story of Joseph meeting his brothers for the first time after many years of being sold into slavery in Egypt. Joseph’s heart breaks as he hears his brothers talk of their past transgressions. He holds one in prison while sending food back to their families and demanding that they come back with the youngest brother. Jesus in our Gospel, makes his closest 12 “disciples” into “Apostles” by sending them to preach, teach and heal the lost sheep of Israel.
Although they get on our nerves, they hurt us, they don’t play fair, they don’t share, or they take what is ours, brothers (& sisters) are a very GOOD thing! Not only are we never alone when we have them around, we have solidarity and belonging within the family, whether its a biological, Christian or human family. We have many choices within those relationships which boil down to only a few ultimately; fight, get along, or ignore. Fighting is constant turmoil, even if love is present. Resentment, anger, revenge and retribution are the normal course. The aftermath of this is usually regret and sad memories. Getting along contains the normal coursing of turmoil, forgiveness, working together, sharing and loving. Joy, pain, friendship, hurt, forgiveness and love are the normal course. The aftermath of this is sadness over loss, good memories and love, a bond that death cannot even break. I think the worst of the choices is to ignore, to leave it all on the table unused for the sake of apathy or narcissism… being too wrapped up in ourselves. Emptiness, loneliness and no sense of belonging are the normal course. We can however fill up our lives with other things and sometimes consciously believe we don’t miss a thing. The aftermath of this is often emptiness, sometimes regret, sometimes longing.
Joseph’s example of wanting to re-unite his family and forgive is a good one to observe. Even though he held all the power in this situation, he chose forgiveness and reconciliation. We’d do well if we could remember and follow this example. Jesus chose the best for his disciples when he banded them together and then sent them out in pairs to help, support, protect and love each other. That’s the perfect way to live in brother and sister-hood with our biological, Christian and human families! We are called to that perfection. “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. Once again, letting go of our sinful pride, our hurt feelings, our egos and choosing humility is the key. Seems like humility is the key to many of our Christian virtues… Today I thank God for my brothers and sisters… biological and otherwise! Peace and All Good, my friends, from my breezy, shady, 83* patio!