The Key to Good Relationships
† I.H.S. †
May the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed in our lives, that we are certain that ALL things God intends for good.
You offended who?
Imagine if you offended someone with a lot of power. Say, the head of the CIA, or one of the leaders of the Mafia. Or to make it truly scary, the guy you cut off this morning, he’s waiting for you outside, and he is the head interrogator… Err… analyst for the IRS.
Can you imagine their fear the eleven brothers had that we heard about in the reading from Exodus, the person they offended had so much power that Joseph could have made them and their family disappear?
They were so afraid of him that they didn’t even go to beg for their lives themselves, they delegated that task to someone, coming up with a whopper of a story.
I can imagine the messenger trying to “sell it” to Joseph.
“Uhm, your brothers sent me… and uhm… they wanted me to tell you that your dad, uhm…. Before he died instructed them to tell you… you had to forgive them all that cruel stuff they did to you. Uhm like mocking you and tossing you into the pit, and saying they were going to kill you and then selling you to some passing merchants.
Uhm yeah, Mr. Prime Minister sir, yeah that’s the message they told me to say, uhm… please don’t kill the messenger?!?”
So afraid were they, that they didn’t get the message their brother told them in chapter 45, the same message he would give them here….
The same message we need to hear when we screw up, for it is the key to having good relationships, and really when one is broken, the only way to see those relationships reconciled, and healed.
Why the tears brother?
I usually look at this passage from Joseph’s perspective. But today, I want to see it from the brother’s perspective. There are people who have offended us, and that is a challenge, but do we ever think that someone we’ve offended would forgive us?
If we were to see the person we’ve offended cry as Joseph did, if we were to see them break down and weep, what would be going through our minds?
How would we understand his sobbing? Would we think he was re-living the pain, the agony, the loneliness we caused? Would his breakdown leave us more anxious, more worried, more afraid of what he would do?
It must have had an effect on them, for they no longer talked of being the servants of their father’s God.
They fell at Joseph’s feet and did something amazing.
They said they were his slaves. That he had complete power of their lives, as they took a position of incredible humility… and still they were unable to think of the idea of reconciliation, or true forgiveness.
They are like the prodigal son, eating the same food as the pigs he fed, because there was nothing else. He didn’t expect his Father would forgive him, but maybe he would accept him as a hired hand, or even a slave.
and maybe that person we offended would recognize we were people again. They might not ever be friends again, but maybe they wouldn’t be actively hostile toward us?
The power of knowing God
I think the reason they struggled with reconciling broken relationships is they were missing something.
They didn’t understand how God worked, because they never looked for what God was doing. They didn’t understand what Joseph had seen in Potiphar’s house, or in the jails, the very distinct and certain path God had planned.
Joseph couldn’t have become prime minister without meeting the cup bearer in jail, he couldn’t have bene there if he hadn’t been a slave in Potiphar’s house, he couldn’t have been sold to Potiphar unless his brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery in the first place.
Each step, miraculously led to the next, and what was planned for evil God intended to use for good.
The other offense.
Joseph knew the heart of God, the heart of the Lord whom we have offended.
For our sins, much more numerous than those of the eleven brothers, offend Him. He’s created us, given us a simple task of loving Him and each other, and we fail too often. And like Joseph’s brothers, is there any way we could ever believe He would cry over our betrayal?
That somehow, God could plan for what we intended that was unloving and sinful to somehow end up being for good?
Yet in cross, where Jesus died to ensure our forgiveness, we see the ultimate version of what Joseph knew. He knew the heart of God, and that God would always call us back to Him. Perhaps he listened to his father, a pretty notorious sinner who even wrestled with God, fighting for a blessing. Or remembered the stories of his grandfather and great grandfather, whom God would use and make promises to, even as they weren’t always faithful.
God always plans to call us back, to renew and heal us from our sin. He will care for us as Joseph cared for his brothers, even comforting us and reassuring us about the promises He makes to us, the promise made to little David this morning.
The promise that is renewed here, when we are given the body and blood of Jesus, the blood spilled out as man did the ultimate evil, killing someone who was innocent.
And yet out of that ultimate evil, comes the greatest act of mercy, as Jesus died not just because they killed them, but to forgive every sin we’ve have committed. Every single one.
This is the heart of God that Joseph saw, the sacred Heart that cares for us more than the pain we caused.
The heart of God that would cry over our sins, and then call us back to Him, and care for us, providing for us.
This is our God, and trusting in Him, we can find peace overwhelming our anxieties, our fears washed away by His comfort, our sins washed away by His blood.
For what we meant for evil, God used for good.
It was our evil… it was for our good.
This is the secret to good relationships – the power of God to reconcile us to Himself, and then there – we are already reconciled to each other.
He calls to you today as well, offering that peace, which doesn’t make sense to us, but in which He promises to care for us, for we dwell in in Jesus. Amen.
Devotional Thought fo the Day:
Now please forgive us the wrong that we, the servants of your father’s God, have done.” Joseph cried when he received this message.
18 Then his brothers themselves came and bowed down before him. “Here we are before you as your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I can’t put myself in the place of God. 20You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened. 21You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them with kind words that touched their hearts. Gen. 50:17-21
Consider, in particular, the sin of ingratitude towards God, which is a general sin, and extends itself over all the rest, making them infinitely more enormous. Consider, then, how many benefits God has bestowed on you, and how you have abused them, turning them against Him, to dishonour Him. And, in particular, how many inspirations you have made unprofitable. But above all, how many times you have received the sacraments, and where are the fruits of them? What is become of all those precious jewels, with which your dear Spouse adorned you? They have all been buried under your iniquities. With what preparation have you received them? Think on your ingratitude; that God having run so far after you, you have fled from Him to lose yourself.
Joseph forgiving his brothers is a great story of grace. It is also, for one such as I am, very convicting.
I have to admit that I am a hold a very advanced certification in resentment, and am accomplished at being merciless.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate grace, or struggle to depend on the grace of God that is demonstrated in my being counted righteous and forgiven. I depend on that daily, and it provides hope for this sinner that I am.
I find myself likewise confronted by the parable of the debtor is forgiven millions and has a very definite style of collecting the $150 bucks owed him the very same day.
Do we have to grow into people that imitate Joseph? Can’t we just count on God’s mercy, even for our mercilessness? Does it not extend out that far? Surely Jesus understands the pain of being betrayed, the agony of being hurt, the horrible hurt that comes as someone sinning against us.
After all, I am just a broken sinner, one He is healing gradually, how can I be expected to be the Messiah or one of the great faithful people in scripture? How would I find the strength, the inner power to desire to be, and to become that merciful?
I think St Francis de Sales comes up with a reasonable explanation for our inability. It is because we don’t take the time to consider God’s actions in our lives that deserve gratitude, from our Creation, Redemption and Sanctification to His daily present that waits for our prayers, to His revealing His presence through His word and sacraments and those we encounter, as we think somehow we are ministering to them. When in reality, we are simply exploring the incredible dimensions of His love.
As we begin to appreciate the amazing love of God who comes to us, who picks us up and begins to heal our brokenness, as He invites us to dine with Him, and are welcome into His peace, that is when our resentment breaks, when the tears flow, when we look to Him and ask if these relationships, as dry as dry bones can live.
It is only in understanding that He has brought us back to life, that He is healing us, that He is making us whole, that we find ourselves allowing the resentment to slip away, our grip on the anger and pain to painful to keep up. Looking to Jesus – seeing His love, how His plan has blessed you, even the sin committed against you, leads resentment a burden to cold, too hard to bear into the light of His glory.
Devotion to God who loves you more than you can imagine, or hanging on to the pain?
As we come to Advent, as we find the need we have fro Christ’s presence, as we begin to desire more and more the peace and love He he has to share with us, may we desire to set aside those things that would drags us down, and with joy, may we hold out our hands for those who once betrayed us, to join us in the journey.
Francis de Sales, Saint. An Introduction to the Devout Life. Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1885. Print.
Devotional and Discussion Thought of the Day:
1 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 (NLT)
756 I advised you to inject a great deal of supernatural outlook into every detail of your ordinary life. And I added immediately that living with other people provided you with ample opportunity throughout the day. (1)
I’ve heard a lot of speculation recently on Israel and Palestine, people trying to justify the killing that is going on, from one side or the other. Even the passages from scripture, about wars and rumours of wars have been used to justify war, ( I think those passages can bring us comfort and solace – but to justify it?) The same kind of speculation about what is going on in Iraq, and in the Ukraine, and in a dozen other places around this world.
Yeah, there are going to be wars. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it! It doesn’t mean, that like Pope Francis, we can’t pray diligently that these brothers would stop warring against each other. (It amazes me For them to realize they are brothers and sisters, that who they are killing are their own.
(Yeah, I realize that what I am saying is going to tick them both off at me – but hey – it just proves that they can agree on something!)
Its hard for them to see, I realize, that they are all related through Noah, and perhaps through Abraham. That even more, as people who Jesus Christ was crucified to redeem, they could be brothers via the application of His blood for all the sins that separate them. After all, we see such an example in people like the Apostles Matthew and Simon the Zealot, and of course in the Apostle Paul
Peace, real peace, not just a passing cease fire, or a UN mediated true, has to come spiritually, It has to come from the One who died to end sin, to bring hope, to establish peace in our hearts. As St Josemaria wrote, we have to increase our awareness of the supernatural, of the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Only then will we see our brothers and sisters in a different light, only then will we see them as children of God, as righteous in Christ, and realize that to cause them sorrow, is to cause ourselves sorrow. Consider these verses, and God’s call to love your adversaries,
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Romans 12:14-16 (NLT)
That is true whether we are talking about national and international battles, or the battles that can rage in our workplaces, or homes. Or the relationships that cause us stress, anxiety, even mild cases of paranoia.
Is it possible to live at peace? I do not know. I know it is possible to live In peace, the peace of Christ.
May you find yourself drawn into that peace, and may you draw those you are “at war” with, into that peace as well.
And pray, for the peace of Israel, and for those who oppress them! (Jeremiah 29:7)
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3142-3144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.