With the verses from the Book of Genesis that form today’s first reading from the Lectionary for Daily Mass, we hear the conclusion of this first book of the Bible. Joseph dies after extracting a promise from his brothers and their descendants that when God leads them out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land, they will take his bones with them.
These people believed that the land was intimately connected to their Deity. So to remain close to their God, the people of the Middle East insisted on being in the soil of their native land in order to remain close to their God. Even though they did not believe in a life after death, remaining close to their God was also seen as a way to remain close to their family. As long as their descendants remembered them, they knew that some part of them would continue to exist. This explains why producing children was so important for these people. Descendants naturally remember ancestors. Preserving those memories gives them a sense of immortality.
This last chapter of the Book of Genesis also serves to prepare us for the most important book of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Book of Exodus. God’s efforts to save the Israelites from slavery and to lead them back to the Promised Land will be detailed in this book. That story will point us to our own faith in Jesus who saved us from the slavery to sin by his redemptive suffering and death. The covenant that these people will form with God on Mt. Sinai is a foretaste of the covenant that God will seal with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s plan of salvation has been unfolding before us as we hear these stories. The story goes a long way in illustrating how much God love us. Though it took thousands of years to bring it to fruition in Jesus, this plan is a very convincing and beautiful story of God’s love for us. Let us return that love by remaining true to the covenant we have entered into with Jesus.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator