The Holy Mass: Our Participation in the Sacred Mysteries of Jesus Christ

March 24th, 2017


The Mass is the heart of Catholic life. In it, we participate in the saving events of Jesus as they are made present again in our lives. Like our Lenten journey, the order of Mass can be seen as an ascent from the River Jordan to Jesus’ teaching ministry to Jerusalem and the Cross and empty tomb, and finally to the mountain where Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses before ascending to heaven.

It all actually begins before the liturgy, when people first enter the church and make a Sign of the Cross with holy water, recalling Christ’s baptism and our own. The opening procession, accompanied by a hymn or a simple prayer, then symbolizes our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven – we are a pilgrim people making our way through life to God. After the priest celebrant kisses the altar, the introductory rites continue with the Sign of the Cross, the Church’s most basic blessing and fundamental prayer by which we acknowledge the means of our redemption and proclaim the Holy Trinity. What follows is a greeting drawn from scripture, to which the people respond, “And with your Spirit,” acknowledging the role of the Holy Spirit in the Mass.

Next, we recognize our failings and ask God to cleanse us of all that might hold us back from the celebration of the Eucharist. Sometimes this takes the form of the celebrant offering a special prayer and then sprinkling the congregation with holy water as a memorial of our baptism and renewal of the living spring of grace within us. More often there is a penitential act to acknowledge and take full responsibility for our sins, which may involve saying the Confiteor, “I confess to almighty God . . .” After we say the ancient prayer known as the Kyrie – “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy” – the priest asks God to “have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life,” to which the people affirm with, “Amen.”

From acknowledging our lowliness, in the Mass we then rightly praise the greatness of God the Trinity with the Gloria except during the seasons of Advent and Lent, when the liturgy is more subdued and penitential.  Typically sung or chanted, the Church takes the opening lines from the angels’ song at the birth of Jesus, “Glory to God in the highest,” which in a sense was the first Christmas carol. This prayer of praise, with its litany of scriptural titles for the Lord, brings a spirit of exultant joy to the Mass, celebrating the glory of God who for our sake has taken flesh in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became man for our salvation, in the unity of the Spirit.

To humbly glorify God is the hallmark of faith and it is fitting to observe a moment of sacred silence after praying the Gloria.  To conclude this introductory part of Mass and to set the stage for the Word of God, the priest says, “Let us pray,” offering an opening prayer which emphasizes the day’s theme, to which the people say, “Amen.”

This is the first installment of a series drawn from the book that Mike Aquilina and I wrote, “The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition.”

Moses and the Exodus, the Mighty Deeds of God and Us

March 20th, 2017


To better understand our Lenten journey of hope toward the Risen Jesus, Pope Francis said in his general audience on Ash Wednesday that we must refer to the fundamental experience of the first Passover and the Exodus from Egypt, which prefigured our definitive salvation in Christ and is made present again in the Eucharistic sacrifice. “The Paschal Mystery of Jesus is his exodus, by which he has opened the way for us to reach full, eternal and blessed life,” Pope Francis explains.

Some generations after Joseph had saved the Israelites from famine and brought them to Egypt, the people God had formed a covenant with were conscripted to provide forced labor to build various public works. They remained in this state of bondage for hundreds of years. “But the Lord has not forgotten his people and his promise,” recounts Pope Francis. “He calls Moses and, with a mighty arm, enables the Israelites to flee from Egypt and guides them through the desert toward the Land of Liberty.”

When God appeared in the burning bush and called Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring his people out of Egypt, Moses did not feel he was up to the task. “If you please, my Lord, send someone else,” he said, insisting that he was a poor speaker and did not know what to say. But God told him not to worry – not only would he have the assistance of his brother Aaron, but God would help them both in what to say and do. As with Mary and Joseph, at the center of Moses’ calling was grace – and a willingness to be an instrument of that grace.

Scripture tells us how the Holy Spirit dwelt in the midst of God’s people Israel during the Exodus. When Moses appeared before Pharaoh, it was the Spirit who gave him the words to say, “Thus, says the Lord: Let my people go.” The mighty signs and wonders of God seen as plagues against Egypt and its false gods were the Spirit in action, including when the Lord passed over the houses of his people that were marked with the blood of a sacrificial lamb, thereby saving them from the death of their firstborn. Likewise, the Spirit is present in the column of cloud and fire when the people were brought out of Egypt, he is later manifested in the fire on Mount Sinai, and when Moses stretched his hand over the Red Sea, it was the Spirit who allowed God’s people to safely pass through the waters, just as we are saved in the waters of baptism.

The epic story of the Exodus and Moses teaches us that we should not be hesitant or think we are inadequate and do not know what to say or do in proclaiming the Gospel or teaching the faith. God does not leave us alone in this work – he gives us the power to be “Spirit-filled evangelizers,” Pope Francis reminds us (Evangelii Gaudium, 259). With the Spirit working through us, any manner of mighty deeds can be done toward the transformation of the temporal order and salvation of humanity.

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Embracing the Mercy of God during Lent

March 14th, 2017
(CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Yesterday we celebrated the fourth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis as Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. The Gospel for the day, Monday of the Second Week of Lent, was from Saint Luke where it is recorded that, “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven…For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you’” (Luke 6: 36-38).

How appropriate or perhaps better said how providential that this is the anniversary of the Pope who gave us the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the apostolic exhortation on The Joy of the Gospel and another on The Joy of Love, and who has dedicated his pontificate to lifting up for all to recognize and embrace the mercy of God.

One of the reasons, I believe, that our Holy Father evokes such appreciation, respect and love from people all over the world, even those not of our household of the faith, is because when he speaks and in his actions we find reflections of Jesus.

Not that long ago at a gathering with young people at a Catholic center at one of the secular universities, I heard, in conversation with students over and over again, the comment that Pope Francis sounds like Jesus.

There are so many episodes in the life of Jesus recounted in the Gospels that make us mindful of the need to be merciful as the Gospel tells us today. We are to be perfect, we are to be merciful and, to the extent that we do we not judge and condemn, we will not be judged or condemned.

The image of Jesus encountering the woman caught in adultery so easily comes to mind. The Gospel account makes it very clear that there was no question about her guilt nor about the demands of the Mosaic Law. She was to be stoned to death.

Her sin, according to the law, was punishable in that manner and the only thing that remained was to execute the sentence. We are told that the scribes and the Pharisees, those responsible for passing on the tradition and the law, were all quite clear that there is only one application of the law that came to the Jewish people from God through Moses. This woman was to be stoned to death.

The Gospel goes on to tell us that they asked Jesus what was his opinion of the law. It also makes clear that they said this to try to find some way to trap him. It was a false question since according to their interpretation there was only one answer.

But Jesus is merciful. The Gospel does not say that he abolished the law, annulled the application of the law or even answered the questions put forward by the scribes and Pharisees. Instead, Jesus simply asked those who were without sin if they intended to be the first one to throw a stone.

Then the Gospel says he did not condemn the woman but told her to go and sin no more.

His mercy overrode everything else including the prescriptions of the law. One thinks of the paralytic lowered down through the roof to be placed in front of Jesus. Jesus forgives his sins as he heals him. This passage of the Gospel also reminds us of the importance of a community that believes in Jesus’ power to forgive. The four men who lowered the paralytic are an image of the Christian community, who is called to take a risk, even to remove the roof of the house, to make it possible for a sinner to encounter God’s mercy.

Today, we begin the fifth year of the Pontificate of Pope Francis and we do so walking with him in faith, in loyalty and in love.

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Celebrating the Election of Pope Francis: Four Years Later

March 13th, 2017

Pope Francis in Washington DC. Photos by Eddie Arrossi 9-23-15

Four years ago today, as a result of an ancient process of prayer, silent reflection and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Bishop of Rome and thus Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, also called Servant of the Servants of God, and became the 266th Vicar of Christ.

Then there were few Americans who knew Cardinal Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Today, as we celebrate his fourth anniversary, we have come better to know and love him. In these past four years, Pope Francis has come to our country and to the Archdiocese of Washington. Everywhere this humble Pontiff went people rejoiced in his radiant smile and sincerity of pastoral concern as he inspired us with words of encouragement and solidarity.

What the Holy Father brought first and foremost to everyone he encountered was Jesus Christ and his Gospel which calls us to see one another as brothers and sisters all of us children of God. As he explained in his talk to the bishops of this country: “To testify to the immensity of God’s love is the heart of the mission entrusted to the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of the One who on the cross embraced the whole of mankind.”

Since that visit, our Holy Father has also presided over two synods on the family, one in 2014 to address the challenges families face and one in 2015 to encourage us in fostering family life and supporting one another in the challenges of Christian discipleship today.

More recently, we witnessed the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy where we were reminded that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy and that we need constantly to be merciful in the full measure in which we have received that great gift of divine compassion.

In these past years, our Holy Father has blessed us with post-synodal apostolic exhortations and an encyclical letter, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), and The Care of Our Common Home (Laudato Si’).

Today, we continue to remember with inspiration the Canonization Mass of Saint Junípero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the September 2015 visit of our Holy Father, his address to a Joint Meeting of Congress, and his visit to the center of Catholic Charities and the time he spent with the homeless and marginalized served by the archdiocese. We also fondly recall his significant stop at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s home and, of course, his special visit to the newly founded Saint John Paul II Seminary where he offered words of encouragement and challenge to all of our seminarians.

As we join with Catholics all around the world today, we offer warmest best wishes and prayerful congratulations to the Supreme Pontiff on the fourth anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter. Together with the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Washington, I renew on this anniversary our pledge of devout prayers, continued loyalty and heartfelt affection.

Viva il Papa!

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Ask the Cardinal: The Last Things Revisited in Light of Lent

March 12th, 2017

Last Things Reflection During Lent

Experience shows that answers to questions tend to prompt more questions.  So it is with last month’s series on the Last Things.  As we proceed toward the Paschal Mystery of our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection, which are offered to us for our own redemption and salvation into new and eternal life, I would like to take up again a few questions of the heart about the Last Things – death, judgment, heaven and hell.

Reflecting on the truth the Church holds out to us at the end of this earthly life is the first movement of the soul toward eternity.  Yet, as in any uncertain situation, both our heads and our hearts must work together to make sense of the unknown.  We do this in unity with the Church and also mindful of our mission to help spread the Good News of the Risen Lord to the world, including those who do not already know him.

Each of us probably has many people dear to us who are not Catholic, and thus do not receive the sacraments, or are not Christian.  So, it is not uncommon to hear someone ask, “Can non-Catholics or non-Christians go to heaven?”  The Catechism does not specifically respond to the question of who will be saved.  Rather, it focuses on the gift of grace – known only by God in his infinite mercy – in every person. This much is sure, however – there is only One Savior, who is Jesus Christ and “all salvation comes from Christ the head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846).  Salvation in Christ does not mean that non-Catholics or non-Christians are not saved, but rather in a spirit of hope, if they are saved, they are saved by and through Jesus and his Church.

God created us in love and longs for us to be with him in eternity. He desires all people to go to Heaven.  Therefore we pray that no one is lost, and that through God’s grace, the joy of heaven may be possible in ways known to the Lord.

In Baptism, we gain the virtue of Christian hope which sustains us in our life’s journey, particularly through death to eternal life. Yet the challenges of life, combined with human frailty, may lead one to give up hope that God loves us and wants us to be with him in eternity.  In this despair, a person may no longer trust God’s goodness, faithfulness and forgiveness, and so never seek his mercy.  At the other extreme, a person may presume upon God’s mercies, pridefully ignoring the need for personal conversion, falsely believing that they will automatically go to heaven.  Both despair and presumption are sins against hope which, because they keep a person from turning to God and seeking reconciliation, may keep one from heaven.

“May the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”  With these words said at the end of the funeral liturgy, I encourage you this Lenten season to continue prayerfully to meditate on the Last Things with faith, hope and love.

Going to Confession

March 9th, 2017


The sacrament of Confession is the outward manifestation of God’s mercy.  Also called Penance or Reconciliation, the sacrament lavishly benefits the one who seeks it, costs nothing and takes little time. Yet many Catholics do not often go.  Why?

For some it is embarrassment or some other fear, others may not know how or have forgotten, or they simply do not think of it.  There is also the fact of a diminished sense of sin the past several decades. Yet sin is an unavoidable and universal reality, as are its inevitable negative consequences.  One of the tasks of the New Evangelization, then, is to be that light to others which helps them to recognize the right path and to point them to the beacon of God’s love and mercy found in the Church.

Neither fear nor uncertainty should hold anyone back. The confessional is not a place of condemnation, but healing and relief, and it is completely confidential.  You can also always tell the priest you are unsure how to proceed.  He is happy to help, and “how to” guides are available in parishes and online at

The basic components of the Rite of Penance, which otherwise is fairly informal, are contrition, a good confession, absolution and satisfaction.  Before going, perhaps at home, it is a good practice to make a prayerful examination of conscience to identify any sins one may have committed.  Then, entering the confessional, although not required, people traditionally begin with a Sign of the Cross and say, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned,” disclosing how long it has been since their last confession.  To be a “good confession,” we must fully confess to the priest in the person of Christ all mortal sins of which we are aware, but are encouraged also to confess venial sins since in our human condition we cannot always rightly distinguish venial from mortal sin and also to better strengthen our spiritual life and relationship with God. The priest may then offer some spiritual guidance and ask that we say an Act of Contrition, followed by giving absolution.  To complete it all, we do the penance assigned to us.

As the ordinary means given us by Jesus for reconciliation, we are obliged to seek the sacrament of Confession, and the only sin not forgiven is the one not confessed and for which forgiveness is not sought.  However, if one has the intent and desire for Confession, but should die first, perhaps in a fatal car accident on the way to church or you are in a place where no priests are available, perfect contrition will suffice as an extraordinary means of obtaining reconciliation.

Pope Francis emphasizes that “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” (Misericordia et Misera, 12). That we can be so lovingly freed from our spiritual burdens and restored to new life is Good News for each of us and the whole world.

Together on the Journey of Faith

March 6th, 2017
Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann

Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann

As archbishop, it is my privilege to preside at the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion each Lent.  Yesterday and again next Sunday combined, over 1,100 individuals from all over the archdiocese will have filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for this celebration.  As these adults and young people publicly profess their intention to become full members of the Catholic Church, in this Rite we in turn welcome and promise to accompany them on their faith journey which leads to new life at the Easter Vigil and beyond.

We celebrate amidst scaffolding as work progresses on the Trinity Dome overhead. It is fitting that a visible reminder of the Holy Trinity that reigns over all will stand above those who enter this magnificent Basilica.  It is “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” that these catechumens will be baptized, and it is a share in the blessed life of the Trinity that is God’s gift to his adopted children.

Each person at this liturgy has been called by name. These catechumens and candidates have responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and through a journey of prayer and study at their local parishes have come to declare their desire to say “yes” to God’s call to be his disciples.  In a powerful way, the Rite of Election models God’s call as the name of each catechumen is called. But just as we are not born the first time by ourselves, neither are we born the second time by water and Spirit alone.  Faith and baptism are something we receive as gift (Lumen Fidei, 41).  As Saint Paul points out, “How can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14). And so, as they approach the sanctuary, each catechumen and candidate is accompanied by a Godparent or sponsor who likewise has been called, in addition to members of their local parishes who accompany, pray and journey with them throughout the Rite of Christian Initiation process. In a particular way, these sponsors stand ready to proclaim their confidence in the catechumens and candidates as they promise to support these who will be the newest members of the Church.

As we offer our witness to them, the women and men that we happily welcome into our spiritual family as sisters and brothers in a very real way serve as witnesses to us.  They are a living reminder to continually seek Jesus who is our salvation and joy, and to pray for the wisdom and courage to strive to conform our lives to Christ.

Please join me in praying for these catechumens and candidates in these days leading to the joy of Easter.  We pray as well for all those who may be seeking the Risen Lord and have not yet heard his call.

The Penitential Practices of Lent

March 3rd, 2017


The Lenten season is a time for getting our lives in order and turned in the right direction as together the Church makes the ascent up to Jerusalem and the Upper Room and Calvary and the empty tomb. It is a calling to conversion and preparation, including traditional penitential practices. For example, in addition to the ashes and sacramental confession, this “is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving,” says Pope Francis in his Message for Lent 2017.

These penitential practices to block out all the noise and busyness of the world, and get our priorities straight, really are not separate, but interrelated. Christians fast, including meatless Fridays and sacrificing enjoyment of other things, not for simple deprivation, but as a step toward purification and progress toward greater love of the Lord, who fasted as well in the desert and before he endured his Passion for our sake.

The fast acceptable to the Lord means “setting free the oppressed,” and “sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them” (Isaiah 58:6-7). Also, by feeling hungry for a while, we might better identify with those who experience hunger every day.

Our devotions and penitential practices should, of course, begin with prayer, with opening and raising up our hearts to God in communion with the whole people of God. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are to be done in a spirit of humility and love of God and neighbor. Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee who prayed with an air of moral superiority and scorn for others as he took pride before God in how much he fasted and gave alms. Meanwhile, a nearby tax collector humbly confessed himself a sinner and prayed for God’s mercy. “I tell you,” said Jesus, “the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:10-14).

Pope Francis points to a similar parable in his Lenten Message – the story of the poor Lazarus and the rich man “who dresses like a king and acts like a god,” as described by the Holy Father. “In fact, there was no place for God in his life.” Accordingly, the rich man was blind to the wretched hungry man lying at his door and, in the rich man’s interior emptiness, this led to him suffering in the netherworld when he died, while Lazarus, who suffered here, enjoyed the riches of heaven.

Lent reminds us to conduct ourselves “in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ,” loving him and others (Philippians 1:27). We give up something, give in charity, empty ourselves and open our hearts to make room for something much, much better. By dying to self in the Lord, we will rise with him in eternal life (cf. Romans 8:1-13).

The Light is ON this Lenten Season

March 1st, 2017

Just as the Church has special days for feasting, today, we enter into the great season of fasting.  The Sign of the Cross will be traced with ashes on our foreheads as an outward sign of our inner poverty and hunger, and we begin penitential practices aimed toward conversion and purification.  An important part of purification is reflecting on our thoughts and conduct that harm our relationship with God and with others.  We know these wrongs as sin, which is “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (CCC 1849).

We are given Lent to prepare to celebrate at Easter Jesus’ death and resurrection so that our sins do not mark our lives forever, but there is instead a way to own up to our failure and ask God to forgive and heal us of the wounds of sin.  In a particular way, our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation to provide that grace.

At the end of every sacramental confession, the priest says, “through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  These are some of the most beautiful words that a priest says in the course of his ministry. Sadly, our priests do not get to say these words enough. We are told that 75 percent of Catholics do not make Confession a part of the regular practice of their faith.  This is one reason that the Church in her wisdom celebrates the season of Lent – we need that reminder each year that one day we will be accountable for our sinful failings, yet God is loving and in his mercy is always ready to forgive, if only we come to him with contrition.

This Lent, as we have for decades, in collaboration more recently with the Diocese of Arlington, our archdiocese is making the Sacrament of Reconciliation more widely available. On Ash Wednesday, everyone who comes to begin Lent and marked with ashes will receive a card inviting them to come to be reconciled, to hear those beautiful words of forgiveness. The invitation, to be given to others, will also have our The Light is ON web address, at which people will find times for special Wednesday evening confessions, in addition to regular confession times on other days of the week at area parishes.

If it has been some time since you have been to Confession, you have nothing to lose except the heavy burdens you have been carrying.  If you already make Confession a regular practice and know how transforming it is, you can help others to receive the grace of God’s mercy by giving one of the invitations to them.  By sharing with them what it means to you, and perhaps inviting them to come with you next time you go, you will be an instrument of God’s love this Lent.

Joseph and His Brothers – Preparing the Way for Jesus Christ

February 27th, 2017

Joseph and His Brothers

It is the understanding of the Church that all of scripture speaks of Christ.  Reading the Old Testament, the Church has found hidden in the text prophecies and foreshadowings of what is fully revealed in the New Testament (Dei Verbum, 14-16).

In a particular way, the Church has illuminated the unity of scripture through typology, “which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (CCC 128).  Some of those in whom the Church Fathers have discerned a “type” of Jesus, that is, a Christ-like figure, are Adam in his original and intended holiness, the high priest Melchizedek, Moses, and Joseph, son of Jacob, who was given the name “Israel,” as well as figures of prophecy like the “suffering servant” proclaimed by Isaiah.

Of the twelve sons of Jacob, Joseph had a special place in his heart. Joseph was the first son born to Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, who died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. Centuries later, in the fullness of time and near the tomb where Rachel was buried, Jesus was born. Like Christ, Joseph was an innocent man made to suffer by his own people, sold for money, condemned, and counted among the dead, but God brought good out of evil and raised him to new life, and through Joseph’s suffering and his forgiving their betrayal, God’s people would be saved (Genesis 37:2-47:12).

Rachel’s first-born, Joseph, was Jacob’s greatly favored eleventh son.  His older brothers, born to other mothers, resented him. The jealous brothers conspired to kill Joseph, but instead sold him into slavery.  Later Joseph was unjustly condemned to prison when he was falsely accused of iniquity.  Meanwhile, the brothers devastated their father by telling him that Joseph was killed by a beast.

Throughout the wrongs done to Joseph, God was with him and showed him steadfast love.  After interpreting a dream Pharaoh had, Joseph was lifted out of prison to a high position under Pharaoh, where he prepared for and led Egypt out of a long famine by storing up plenty of grain.  Thus would Joseph be the salvation of God’s people Israel.

When his older brothers came to buy grain so the family would not starve, Joseph – whom they did not recognize – tested them, during which they repented of the evil done to him years before. Forgiving them, he revealed himself, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed,” he added, “for God sent me before you to preserve life.” When Jacob heard the news – that his son who was once dead was alive again – he rejoiced and, at Pharaoh’s invitation, the entire family came and settled in the land of Goshen, saved from famine and death.

The story of Joseph is prophetic of Jesus – and it teaches us also to trust in God and be forgiving like Joseph. In this way, we too participate in the Lord’s work of salvation.

This is the third post in a series on the Book of Genesis.