21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
A husband and wife, prior to marriage, decided that HE would make all the major decisions and SHE the minor ones. After twenty years of marriage, the man was asked how this arrangement had worked. The man replied, “Great! In all these years I’ve never had to make a major decision.”
Everyday we make decisions – minor and major ones. Our faith calls us to constantly make a decision for God, a choice for God. In today’s first reading, we are told of the decision Joshua makes.
Joshua replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelites, the People of God. When he grew old, after long years of war and after defeating their enemies, Joshua discovered that his fellow Israelites were sinning again. Now, in the Promised Land, they were picking up bits and pieces of the culture of the local inhabitants. They “were just going with the flow” of their surroundings, they were just drifting along with them – forgetting their Covenant with the God of Israel. They went back to the worship of false gods.
We see in today’s first reading Joshua gathering the Israelites and addressing all the people – saying: “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve.” Joshua is asking the Israelites to make a decision: to choose their God. They have to choose the God to whom they will give their allegiance and obedience – the God whom they will worship and serve. Will it be the God who liberated them from slavery or the gods of their surrounding culture?
In the process, Joshua challenges them to reaffirm their covenant relationship with Yahweh. He further says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord God, the God of Israel.” Joshua chooses to worship and serve the Lord God. We can call this the “Joshua moment.”
Can you honestly say the same thing that Joshua says? “As for me and my house, my family, we will worship and serve the one true God.” “As for me and my household, we give our allegiance and obedience to God and to God alone.” Is this statement made manifest in your life as a family?
Every time we come to Mass; we are facing a “Joshua moment” when we are challenged to make a decision. Will we serve the gods of our popular culture, the gods of worldliness, materialism, and consumerism, the gods of money, wealth, power, prestige, and pleasure? Or will we serve the God who saved us and redeemed us, the Lord who can free us from our addictions and attachments? Each Mass calls us to make a choice or to renew our commitment, to follow the Lord and not the gods of the surrounding culture.
“As for me and my family, we will worship and serve the one true God.” Bishop Robert Barron, commenting on this statement, says, “Everybody worships something or someone.” He explains what he means by saying, “Something or someone is the absolute, highest value for you… the center of gravity for your life… the ultimate concern of your life.”
Some worship their material wealth, possessions, or bank accounts. Some worship their titles, positions, privileges, or accomplishments. Some worship their physical beauty, sexy body, or good image. Idolatry is not just the worship of “graven images.” Actually, any person or thing that becomes uppermost in our hearts and minds is an idol. (Dennis Fakes)
Somebody said, “A man’s god is that for which he lives, for which he is prepared to give his time, his energy, his money, that which stimulates him and rouses him, excites him and enthuses him.” Perhaps we can use this definition or statement in our self-examination. For whom or for what do we live? For whom or for what do we give our time, energy, and resources? Who or what stimulates us, excites us, or enthuses us?
Again, each Mass is a chance to make a decision – to renew and strengthen such a decision – to worship and serve the Lord God, and not the false gods of our culture. Each Mass calls us to repeat, and to live, the words of Simon Peter in today’s gospel: “Lord Jesus, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Let us end with a prayer: Lord God, rescue me from the false gods around me. Rescue me from my idolatrous heart. May everything I do be an act of worship of You – an act of giving my heart to You. Help me to resist surrendering control of my life to someone else and to something else. May You always be the center, the focus and the ultimate concern of my life. Amen.