Saturday, August 18, 2007

"We will serve the Lord"

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18, 2007:

MASS READINGS:


Our readings today I think cause us to reflect upon a few key images for our spiritual journey - faith and trust.
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In our first reading from the Book of Joshua we are presented with a situation demanding trust in the Lord. Let's recall the story. By this point in our narrative, the Chosen People have gone from being under the yoke of slavery in Egypt; they have witnessed the incredible power of God in the plagues wrought upon Pharoah; they have survived the death of the firstborn males through Passover; they have escaped through the parted Red Sea; have been fed miraculously with manna in the desert; have received the tablets containing the 10 Commandments; and more - and now they are in the Promised Land.
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Their response to God's awesome power in their lives? They turn, once again, to idols. And this is where the rubber meets the road. Joshua reminds them that it can no longer be that way. "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord," he says. Joshua tells them, "Decide today who you will serve."
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So, after having witnessed so much incredible action on the part of God, why have the Chosen People turned back to false gods? Well, one explanation can be fear and perhaps they were beginning to be a bit more comfortable. You know when you don't have anything, it is very easy to rely on the Lord. But, now they are in the Promised Land. They are settling down into lives of farming and other trades. They are building homes and establishing lands. They are in a word - becoming comfortable. And in that comfort, perhaps they begin to worry and fear about how they will protect their possessions. What if the Lord has left us? What if others come along and try and take the land from us?
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Joshua reminds them not to fear the world, but "fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely."
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And this is where our Gospel ties in. This beautiful scene from Matthew where Jesus brings the children to Himself and says, "the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." Why? Because children have a clarity of sight that allows them to see only the Lord, only the good, only the things that have true value. And so should we.
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I always think back to a time in my family's life in the late 1970s, during the oil crisis. My Dad was a truck driver and so with the crisis at hand found himself out of work for nearly two years. Now, when I look back on that time, I don't remember that I didn't have the latest, nicest or newest clothes. I don't remember that we perhaps didn't shop at the trendiest places; or that most meals were some version of hamburger helper. I don't remember what we didn't have during that time. What I remember is that we were rich in what mattered. Dad was home! And for my brother, sister and I, this was the best thing in the world. Dad was home in the morning, getting us ready for school. Dad was home in the afternoon when we came home and could spend a lot of time with us.
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As children, we had a clarity of vision to know instinctively what was most important, most valuable - and we rejoiced in that! The rest would, in time, take care of itself.
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And so both Joshua and Jesus remind us to cast away our fears; to dedicate our selves to serving the Lord; to being rich in what matters - the love and the blessings that our God has showered down upon us.
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We too are to say boldly, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." And God will say to us, "the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such" as you.
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May God give you peace.

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