When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do." And since the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world. Thus the children of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.
Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. "Where do you come from?" he said. They said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food."
And he put them all together in prison for three days. On the third day Joseph said to them, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die." And they agreed to do so. They said to one another, "Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us." Then Reuben answered them, "Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood." They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept.
Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.
O sing him a song that is new,
play loudly, with all your skill. (R./)
He frustrates the designs of the nations,
he defeats the plans of the peoples.
His own designs shall stand for ever,
the plans of his heart from age to age. (R./)
The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine. (R./)
Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'
From all parts of the famine-stricken middle east, people flocked into Egypt to avoid starvation. Joseph's brothers joined this stream of refugees, some of whose descendants m would eventually come out of Egypt along with the Israelites. Israel had a universalist quality in its very origin, and by their poverty and need the people of the Exodus are linked with people throughout the world.
In God's providence, the world's produce is meant to be shared; and by goodwill and planning there should be plenty for all. At later times in its history, Israel would deny this right of sharing in resources, and social justice was neglected. Whenever there is rank inequality, prosperous folk tend to worship gods other than Yahweh. But when wealthy landowners selfishly let their neighbours go hungry, fearless prophets rose up to voice the anger of God, who hears the voice of the poor.
No centralised kingdom like that set up by Joseph in Egypt could stay at peace forever. Although Joseph offered to feed the hungry immigrants, eventually, through the centralised method of taxing and distributing the food supply, Pharaoh gained total control of the land of Egypt, in a despotic rule that led to the enslavement of Israel.
We need ways of sharing what we have without any loss of personal dignity. Economic measures are never enough of themselves; sharing must have moral and religious dimensions too. Even progressive taxation allows for loopholes and manipulations by the wealthy few, letting injustices grow like weeds. Modern government must go beyond even the measures taken by Joseph in Egypt, remembering that sharing with those in need is a requirement of justice. In this process, things balance out; for we are as needy as our neighbour, even if in different ways.
Notice how Jesus wants his message to be widely shared. He is prepared to share a meal with Matthew the tax collector and lets him join the band of apostles. He broke bread with sinners at table, and shared God's word with them. His motive is clear: "it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick."
God does not withold his living word from us, even when we show ourselves unworthy of it. Sending out his twelve apostles, Jesus continues to shed his light into the darkest and most troubled places of our lives. He keeps offering us the bread of his word to satisfy our deepest hunger. As he does so, he waits for us to take and eat.