Playing Favorites

In today’s first reading we encounter the story of Joseph, son of Jacob (also called Israel). The reading opens: “Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.” (Gen 37:3-4) And so the problem begins. Actually, the problem just becomes exasperated. There is a single verse that provides more context: “When Joseph was seventeen years old, he was tending the flocks with his brothers; he was an assistant to the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah, and he brought his father bad reports about them.” (Gen 37:2) Continue reading

Jesus and the Samaritan townspeople.

John brings the Samaria narrative to a close by focusing on the success of the Samaritan mission. Verse 39 notes the faith in Jesus of mane Samaritans and explicitly attributes the people’s faith to the woman’s “testimony” (martyria). She, like John the Baptist, is a witness who brings people to faith in Jesus. Also like John the Baptist (3:30), the woman’s witness diminishes in importance when the Samaritans have their own experience of Jesus (vv.40-42). The Samaritans invite Jesus to stay with them, and he stays for two days (if. 40). The use of the verb for “stay” (menō) recalls 1:38 and Jesus’ meeting with his first disciples. To stay with Jesus is to enter into relationship with him (cf. 15:4, 7). Many more persons come to faith in Jesus as a result of this stay (v.41), and in v.42 those who believe acknowledge that their own encounter with Jesus supplants the woman’s word. This is the model of witness and faith in the Fourth Gospel: The witness that leads to Jesus is replaced by one’s own experience of Jesus. Continue reading