In business, politics, and yes, even in religion, there are abrupt changes that occur, ones that alter the trajectory of history and completely overturn existing patterns of stability and routine. A new manager comes in and the organization stops to catch its breath as new alliances must be forged, new policies created or ratified again. Everything is in a state of flux.
That just happened in politics with President Trump coming into office. It was no longer Republican against Democrat to see who has more power, President Trump was a new paradigm shift that left both political parties without their traditional alliances. There was dissonance rather than the comfort of resonance.
In religion, any one of them, they are impacted my a new person in charge. In the Catholic Church, those who hold that the law is the Faith are upset when a Pope Francis emphasizes love and charity are normative.
The Joseph Factor is something I coined a long time ago when I taught management theory to managers who did not want to be there. This is the story of Joseph in the Scriptures. It has to do with one of the most radical statements in all of the Bible. You know the story. Joseph was sold into slavery and became the Chief Operating Officer of Pharaoh, Inc. “Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph,* rose to power in Egypt.”
Jacob’s Descendants in Egypt.1These are the names of the sons of Israel* who, accompanied by their households, entered into Egypt with Jacob:2* Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;3Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;4Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.5The total number of Jacob’s direct descendants* was seventy.a Joseph was already in Egypt.6Now Joseph and all his brothers and that whole generation died.b7But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific. They multiplied and became so very numerous that the land was filled with them.*
The Oppression.8c Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph,* rose to power in Egypt.9 He said to his people, “See! The Israelite people have multiplied and become more numerous than we are!10Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase;* otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave the land.”11Accordingly, they set supervisors over the Israelites to oppress them with forced labor.d Thus they had to build for Pharaoh* the garrison cities of Pithom and Raamses.12Yet the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians began to loathe the Israelites.13So the Egyptians reduced the Israelites to cruel slavery,14making life bitter for them with hard labor, at mortar* and brick and all kinds of field work—cruelly oppressed in all their labor.https://bible.usccb.org/bible/exodus/1
THE JOSEPH FACTOR AND THE CHRIST PRINCIPLE
With one change of position, Joseph became expendable to Pharaoh because he grew up and had no appreciation for what went before. That reminds me of what I observe happening to our Catholic communities these days. When the Church is the center of a person’s life, they build on rocky ground. That is why so many of my relatives and friends who are second-generation Catholics fall away from the Faith. I heard a saying when I was a Freshman in High School (1955) that went something like this: Faith must be caught before it is bought. Funny how those innocuous sayings stay hidden in the cobwebs of my mind and then burst out decades later. All the more strange because I can’t remember if I took my medicine this morning.
Since the governance of the Church uses fallible humans to govern, mistakes are bound to happen. New people mean new alliances, new power structures, new goals, what becomes important is not what went before, and whom should you trust.
In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I reflected on how Jesus was the new Joseph for the Jews of the time, those expecting a Messiah to save them from their temporal bondage and slavery. What they and people today look for is someone to make life easier for them, to give them an easy path to Heaven instead of the rocky road they are on. Just because your road is rocky, doesn’t mean you are on the wrong road. Christ our true Savior, is “the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow.” The new Pharaohs of today come and go. Christ is there for all time. The Psalmist says “Do not put your trust in Princes.” Our trust must be in God alone.
The Judgment of the Nations.*31f “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,32g and all the nations* will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’41*j Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.42k For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’44* Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’46l And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE A JOSEPH OR A PHARAOH?
Here are five questions to ask anyone to separate those who seek their own gratification rather than Christ.
Read Matthew 22:36 and Deuteronomy 6:5
You are not me; I am not you; God is not you; and remember, human, you are not God. –mc