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Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Gen. 46:1-7, 28-30 & Mt. 10:16-23.

The story of Joseph reveals God's plan at work in today's first reading. When Jacob realised that his son was still alive he set out for Egypt despite his advance age to see him again. It was a meeting filled with tears of joy and, because Joseph enjoyed such good favour with Pharaoh, he was able to bring his whole family with him.

This event accounts for the presence of the lsraelites in Egypt. It would later seem to have been an unfortunate move for them because when a new Pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, came to power the lsraelites no longer enjoyed royal favour. In fact they were deprived of their social status and put to work as slaves. But God's plan was still at work.

In His wisdom He saw this purifying experience as necessary for the lsraelites as a preparation for the extraordinary experience of the Exodus. Previous to the Egyptian sojourn, they were a nomadic people with no sense of identity. By means of the Exodus God formed them into His own special people and through Moses, the leader of the Exodus, He made His covenant with them.

The authors of the Bible, inspired by God, saw the meaning of these events only after they had taken place. It was spiritual hindsight. The meaning of our individual lives may seem vague at times. We do not yet have the benefit of hindsight, but we do have the gift of faith. In faith we must believe that God is forming and shaping our lives according to His wisdom and love as surely as He did for the lsraelites.

Jesus continues His missionary theme in today's text from Matthew by telling the 72 disciples that they should expect to be persecuted. After 2,000 years His warnings are still relevant today. In some parts of the world Christians are being terribly persecuted, not only losing their homes and livelihood but also their lives. In our society persecution may not be violent, but it is subtle and equally relentless. Many people have turned away from the faith, regarding the Bible and the Church as outmoded and irrelevant. Yet some are still conscious of their need to find some kind of meaning in life despite being afraid of any commitment that challenges their lifestyle. Often the result is frustration and cynicism that tries to ignore the Gospel and, when confronted with it, reactions of ridicule and contempt.

None of this should come as a surprise. From the beginning of time Satan has waged war against us. Even Jesus was not spared his attacks warning us to expect the same, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.” (Jn 15:20)

There is a touch of irony in Jesus' urging us to be as wise as serpents because, of course, the serpent used his wisdom to deceive Eve into doing evil; the time has come for us to use all our God-given gifts to do good and our response to persecution is to be as patient and courageous as Jesus praying like Him for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

Heavenly Father, deliver us from our fear of opposition and ridicule. Grant us the courage to stand firm in the eternal truths of our faith and teach us to love those who would persecute You in us.

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