Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17b-28a
Matthew 21: 33-43, 45-46
Christians are familiar with what Paul said in his letter to the Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good…” (Rom. 8:28). It is a comforting saying that can help us appreciate the readings today.
Look at Joseph. The long list of evils that rained upon Joseph is unwarranted. The brothers’ pride and jealousy led them to get rid of their younger brother. They meant it for evil, but God was able to work good out of their evil intentions. Joseph was sold as a slave and ended up in Pharaoh’s court as a specialist in interpreting dreams. That led to Joseph being made second in command in Egypt. Jacob’s family came to Egypt in search of food during an alarming famine. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to look for food, little did they realize that their own brother Joseph would save them from starvation.
When the landowner sent his own son to the tenants, the people killed the son. Jesus asked the chief priests and the elders of the people what they would do with those tenants. “Put those wretched men to a wretched death,” they replied. Jesus ignored their sense of revenge and said that the land would be given to others. The Kingdom of God would expand beyond the Jewish people.
Paul’s belief that “in all things God works for the good” can be comforting but also very difficult to believe. At times those words can be irritating, even infuriating. Someone under attack by cancer, living with unending depression, struggling with abuse, surviving day to day, standing at the grave side of a loved one, can wonder if any “good” can be found. We often wonder about the “good” in places where evil seems to govern even in the midst of good people and good initiatives. The list can be long and each of us can think of situations in which we wonder
Yet, the Bible records the words in Romans not merely as a theory but as a fact. It is a fact, whether we like it or understand it or experience it or not, that all things, including those things we consider “bad”, work for the good of those who love the Lord. The reason the Bible can make such a pronouncement is that it recognizes that the Lord God is faithful and good.
Jesus himself, as he died from his fatal wounds, shouted ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Yet, in the end “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Bewilderment and trust. Mixed emotions as Jesus hung on the cross.
Doubt and faith, fear and confidence, despair and hope, these are the emotions of Lent. Our journey during these forty days is a passage between tensions. Our goal is to be at peace with these tensions, believing that God is, at the end of the day, a Good God.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.