Then Jacob gave his sons this charge, "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors - in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah - the field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites."
Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph's brothers said, "What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?" So they approached Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this instruction before he died, 'Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.' Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, "We are here as your slaves." But Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones." In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father's household; and Joseph lived one hundred ten years. Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph's knees.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, "When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here." And Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Jesus said to the Twelve, "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven."
There is no logical order in the various maxims gathered in today's Gospel. In fact, some of the maxims are quoted in other gospels in a different context. To get their meaning, one must believe firmly in God's providence that guides all of our life. The world of our time, like that of our ancestors, contains conundrums that we cannot yet unravel. The Bible offers clues and pointers to enable us to understand them in part – and whatever insight we gain about God's guidance to us, we must proclaim from the housetops, Jesus says. The smallest particle of truth, like a single hair among the thousands on our head, is precious in God's sight.
The old man Jacob must have looked back on his life with a deep sense of wonder. He has married in Haran (northern Syria), lived in Israel amid the jealous rivalries of his sons and the sorrow of losing one of them, and was now about to die in far-off Egypt. Providence has led him along the way and will provide for his bones to be buried back in the promised land, in the ancestral plot once purchased by grandfather Abraham. Egypt, then, was just one stage along the journey of a long life, lived in the mysterious way of God's providence. So many moments of Jacob's life seem to clash with the promises made to his father Abraham and then to himself. Yet his strange, paradoxical life ends up triumphantly, for the hand of God was always with him.
Only by faith can we remain true to the marvellous ways of providence. These converge on Mary, the woman of faith in the gospels, the virgin who paradoxically gives birth to the Saviour, the silent person of prayer by the cross and in the upper room who becomes the mother of the church.