For the next few days we read at Mass from Genesis about Joseph, the son of Jacob, who’s betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt. He becomes one of Pharaoh’s chief advisors. When drought and famine strike the whole land, Egypt is ready because Joseph has stored food to last through seven years of want.
When his brothers come looking for food, Joseph gives them food and saves them and their families from starvation. Eventually, Joseph brings Jacob, his father, and all his brothers and their families to ride out the famine in the safety of Egypt.
Like other Old Testament stories, the story of Joseph offers lessons simple and profound. God saves his people, we’re reminded, even in a world of betrayals and natural disasters. It’s also a story of forgiveness: Joseph forgives his brothers for betraying him and shows them God’s mercy.
It’s also a story to reflect on immigration and global solidarity. The Egyptians obviously let outsiders like Joseph’s brothers, nomads living beyond its borders, into their country. Why not build a wall around Egypt and keep strangers out?
Maybe an act of practical politics, some think. The nomads living on the borders of Egypt and on its trade routes were important allies to have in place with powerful empires to the north. You need to have good neighbors. One reason the Byzantine empire fell so quickly to Moslem invaders later on, historians say, was because it lost the support of Bedouin tribes on its borders.
These days, Pope Francis is stressing the “interconnectedness” of all life on our planet. The human family and nature are connected, for good or for ill. A story from Egypt has its lessons for today.