Today's first reading at Mass from Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28 provided me a kind of distraction:
"Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.
His brothers went to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem. Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers with the flock at Shechem? Come, I am going to send you to them.’ So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.
They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them they made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Here comes the man of dreams’ they said to one another. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him. Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.’
But Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father. So, when Joseph reached his brothers, they pulled off his coat, the coat with long sleeves that he was wearing, and catching hold of him they threw him into the well, an empty well with no water in it. They then sat down to eat.
Looking up they saw a group of Ishmaelites who were coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, tragacanth, balsam and resin, which they were taking down into Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, ‘What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do any harm to him. After all, he is our brother, and our own flesh.’ His brothers agreed.
Now some Midianite merchants were passing, and they drew Joseph up out of the well. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt."
I think I am beginning to succumb to this insistence on the part of some that Ukraine accept this adjective "fratricidal" in talking about the war Russia is waging against Ukraine. Thanks to Genesis and my distraction, however, I am looking at the fratricidal part from the perspective of Jacob's twelve sons. For me, Joseph is a reminder of Ukraine, favored for no particular merit of his own by a doting father who did not love his other sons all that much less, and the rest of them being not just Russia, but nations all around, not so much begrudging Joseph his dreams but each and all taking umbrage at Ukraine's revolution of dignity.
Perhaps there is no real teaching in such daytime revelry, but I see Ukraine as Joseph stripped by his brothers and dumped in a dry cistern, as his brothers discuss the fate of an unloved sibling. Joseph, sold into slavery? Will that be his fate? Or will the complicity of the eleven send him down to the nether world, with the blood of their brother on the hands of not just one but all?
From Genesis, we have some picture of what it was about Joseph which irritated his brothers. No doubt Joseph was not without fault in the whole family mix. Nonetheless, we can only hope and pray that the brothers will come to their senses and free him from the bottom of the pit, not to be sold into slavery but for freedom.
The godlessness of the brothers in their hatred of Joseph and their plans to dispose of him was all too evident from the pages of Genesis. God's justice ultimately prevailed bringing joy to Jacob and salvation from famine to all the extended family, as well as a greater world not counted as or counting themselves brothers.
We hope and pray that our Joseph today will be given by God a chance at stewardship and the opportunity to fill and then open his granaries for the sake of the hungry of our world.
Please, God! Stay the brothers' hands! Spare Joseph for the sake of your people!