When the whole country of Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. But Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’ There was famine all over the world. Then Joseph opened all the granaries and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse in the land of Egypt. People came to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.
Israel’s sons with others making the same journey went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan. It was Joseph, as the man in authority over the country, who sold the grain to all comers. So Joseph’s brothers went and bowed down before him, their faces touching the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them. But he did not make himself known to them, and he spoke harshly to them. Then he kept them all in custody for three days.
On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you shall keep your lives, for I am a man who fears God. If you are honest men let one of your brothers be kept in the place of your detention; as for you, go and take grain to relieve the famine of your families. You shall bring me your youngest brother; this way your words will be proved true, and you will not have to die!’ This they did. They said to one another, ‘Truly we are being called to account for our brother. We saw his misery of soul when he begged our mercy, but we did not listen to him and now this misery has come home to us.’ Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you did not listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood, because there was an interpreter between them. He left them and wept.
Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, the one who was to betray him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows:
‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die
Often at church, the mass ends with an encouragement for parishioners to go out and proclaim the word of God to others. In other words, go out and evangelize. Today’s gospel on the other hand, places the focus on the well-being and evangelization of our own flock. I find this refreshing. I remember one time, when hearing a talk given by a Christian pastor who turned Muslim, that he said Islam became the religion for him because Muslims live truly as a community while his own Christian family was not as communal and focused more on evangelizing. He went on further to describe that by being a tightly knitted and warm community, that in itself is true evangelization. This seems to be the teaching for today’s gospel.
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lose sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” This is what Jesus told his twelve apostles. The focus on true conversion of already Catholics is so real. Many of us call ourselves Catholics, without a day-to-day faith or true discipleship following Jesus. I remember how fervent my faith was in the States, but which died away when I came back to Singapore. I was once a lost sheep. It was my parents unfailing support and encouragement that finally brought me back to the Catholic church. It was this second encounter with the church and the faith that I learnt a lot more, and grew more deeply in my friendship with Jesus and belief in God and the Holy Spirit.
I believe there are many like me, whom because do not have a community at church, gradually falls away from their faith. We need to find these people and reach out to them. Many do not have my luck, with parents who are also Catholics and who care so much for me. There was once when I joined a youth community, the Mustard Seed Community at St. Francis Xavier church in Singapore. I found this community to be extremely tight knitted and welcoming. Seeing them care so much for one another made me realize how important my Catholic faith can be for me. When my mother passed away, one guy in the community even offered to drive me around to do my errands as and when I needed! I never had such friendship before and tremendously touched. It made me treasure my faith more because my faith brothers were truly there for me in my time of need.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Serene Goh)
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for my parents, and for all the small Christian communities that support Catholics all around the world.
Prayer: I pray that I may touch the lives of others, especially lost sheep who have fallen away from the church.