We take a break from the narrative of Joseph to follow the story of Judah and his sons, Er and Onan.
I'm going to go ahead and borrow from a discussion I had with my cousin on Facebook for this part:
To summarize, Judah has two sons, Er and Onan. Er marries Tamar, but Er is slain by God for his wickedness. Judah tells Onan to "Go in to your brother's wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother." "But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also." (Gen 38:8-10)
There has been a lot of discussion on this passage, and what it really means. Some folks have said that the "crime" for which Onan is slain is that of not giving his brother an heir...but the penalty for such is documented in Deuteronomy as public humiliation. Therefore, it would seem that, had Onan simply refused to lie with Tamar, he would have been subject to humiliation, but certainly not death. Instead, Onan decided to enjoy the pleasure of relations with Tamar, but to render the act sterile (via coitus interruptus), and this appears to have been the impetus for God slaying him.
Obviously, there are very few Christian denominations remaining who agree with the Catholic interpretation. Though, it is important to note that less than one hundred years ago, nearly ALL Christians agreed on this.
(Here ends my borrowing)
Because his younger son is not yet ready to wed, Judah sends Tamar to dwell in her father's house until such time that Shelah is old enough to wed...but he does not go about setting up the union out of fear that Shelah will die as well. Tamar "plays the harlot" and ultimately gets Judah to sleep with her, and obtains proof of the parentage of the children conceived by that union.
It is interesting that Judah is ready to have her put to death for begetting children through "harlotry," until he realizes that she is carrying his own children. At that point, he confesses that she is "more righteous" than he is, because he went back on his promise to marry her to Shelah. Thus, he does not put her to death, and does not lie with her again.
We then return to Joseph's trials, where despite being sold as a slave, he flourishes under his new master. That is, until his master's wife takes a liking to him and accuses him falsely after he refuses to lie with her. For that he is thrown in jail, but even there it is recognized that the Lord is with him.
I recall the animated film "Joseph: King of Dreams" which has a beautiful montage displaying Joseph's time in prison to the song "You Know Better Than I":
While this is a dramatization, and we don't have any biblical evidence of Joseph ever doubting or experiencing a spiritual growth in prison, I think it is good to reflect on the fact that even though so many terrible things have happened to Joseph to this point, he is still walking in the steadfast love of the Lord. This is a lesson worth remembering, especially when things aren't going our way.
I'm going to stop saying that I like this psalm or thing that psalm is great. They are all great, and I like them all (yes, even the ones that are somewhat depressing). This is one we often pray at mass, at least partially, and is full of beautiful imagery. Again, the term steadfast love appears multiple times. It would seem that this is a characteristic of God's love we are not to miss.
First we have the manner in which John the Baptist is put to death. As my wife puts it: "Proof that even in ancient times men would do stupid things to gain the affection of a beautiful woman." Certainly this serves as a warning to us not to make open ended promises.
But moreover, we see Jesus' reaction. Jesus withdraws to a "lonely place apart," presumably to mourn. Still, the crowds follow him. Jesus would have been well within his rights to ask them to depart, but even in his own suffering, he has compassion on them, and heals them. But it doesn't end there. His disciples tell him to send the crowd away to get food for themselves, but Jesus refuses, saying instead that "you give them something to eat." When he is informed (as though he needed to be informed) that there are only five loaves of bread and two fish, he works a miracle that feeds them all with twelve baskets left over.
Some folks try and pass this off as a natural occurrence in which the people all had some food with them and shared what they had, but this is a rather lame attempt to de-divinize what has occurred. The people would not have been carrying food for an outing such as this. This miracle which Jesus wrought also prefigures in a special way the way that the Eucharist will work in the future...how He is able to give His own body to us all over the world through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Five loaves. Two Fish. Five Thousand Men, plus women and children. Not to mention the healings...and all while Jesus is clearly saddened over John's death.
Truly this is steadfast love.
I sort of went into this yesterday. God is pure being. He never changes. Even His name tells us this.
We must resist the temptation to try and anthropomorphize God. God lowered himself to take on the incarnation, but he didn't have to. He does it to show the nature of his steadfast love. That's all I have to say about that...