Group thinking and fear prompted Joseph’s brothers to presume the worst in their brother: “Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought, ‘Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!’”
How often has this dynamic played out in history, in everyday news, in my local community, in my own heart?
French historian and philosopher René Girard developed a concept of mimetic theory, a repeating social cycle whereby a group identifies a scapegoat to expel or exterminate and in so doing feels cleansed. Girardian interpreter Gil Baile considers mimetic theory from a Christian perspective and maintains that the Cross broke this endless cycle of socially condoned violence and provides a new way forward for humanity.
Similarly, St. Ignatius encourages us to put best interpretations on the words and actions of others, and today’s Gospel tells us to put away fear and not be demure about our witness: “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
How can we do this with authenticity?
Gil Baile suggests, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
—John Sealey is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.