Then Judah stepped up to him and said, "O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord's ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, 'Have you a father or a brother?' And we said to my lord, 'We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother's children, and his father loves him.' Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.'
Then you said to your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.' When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, 'Go again, buy us a little food,' we said, 'We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.' Then your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons; one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.'
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, "Send everyone away from me." So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come closer to me." And they came closer. He said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve your lives."
Jesus said to the Twelve, "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town."
The ministry of the Twelve is not confined to preaching, for the news that the reign of God is at hand is to be shown by curing the sick, raising the dead, healing lepers, expelling demons. Jesus adds that what they have freely received, they must freely give to others, in a complete sharing of gifts and talents. The true meaning of "the reign of God," therefore, is seen in the generous relationships of daily life.
Further illustration of the situation willed by God comes from Genesis, which emphasises God's providence over every event of life, good and bad. The key to the long Joseph narrative in Genesis (chaps. 37-50) is the simple statement, "God sent me here ahead of you." The full implications of his early life are recognized by Joseph when his brothers approach him after their father's death. Fearfully they imagine he has been nursing a grudge and may now pay them back for all the wrong they did him. But Joseph told them, "Have no fear; God meant it for a good purpose, to achieve the survival of many." Simply and fearlessly, Joseph confessed the absolute and total providence of God over human life. It is striking how all the twists and turns of the story of Joseph are harmoniously concluded by two simple statements, "God sent me here ahead of you" and "God meant it for a good purpose."
There is a story about a tiny remnant of Jews, who survived in hiding in Nazi Germany during World War II. In their hiding-place, one of them said, "We must pray to God." Another answered, "If we pray, God will find out that there are still a few Jews left in Germany." A third added, "It is absurd to pray, for how can God be present in this kind of world?" This was less a question to be answered than a cry of desperation, but the rabbi answered, "It may be idiotic to pray, but it is still more idiotic not to pray."
As in the Joseph story, so in our own lives, in situations of doubt common decency may save us. This response too comes under God's providence, as one of the many ways by which we are led to salvation. At the root of the Joseph narrative we find a profound attitude of compassion. Providence is not always clear to us; in fact, one may even argue strenuously against it, so as to make the very concept seem absurd. The biblical doctrine of providence results from the theology of those invisible "bands of love." In the rich anthropomorphic language of Hosea, God cries out in agonies of love: "My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger,; For I am God, not man, the Holy One present among you." Biblical compassion surpasses all human boundaries in its kindness and understanding, in its forgiveness and the renewal of life's good relationships.
Jesus is the fullest revelation possible in a human life of God's tender love for mankind. He too experienced the turning away of people from this love, their refusal to respond to it in any meaningful way. When He sends out his disciples in today's gospel he warns them to expect the same. They are to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand, the reign of God's life-giving love, but they will encounter those who will not welcome them and will not listen to what they have to say. This negative response is not to deter them from their mission of proclaiming God's loving presence by what they say and do. It certainly did not deter Jesus. When he suffered the ultimate rejection on the cross, he proclaimed the same good news as risen Lord to those who had turned away from him and rejected him. We are to reveal the loving presence of God, regardless of how we are received by others.