The Scripture readings at Mass really struck me today. The first reading hit me so soundly that I don’t really remember the rest of the Mass. It was from the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. Joshua 24 stands as an epilogue of sorts to the first six books of the Bible. In this chapter, Joshua calls an assembly of all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
What struck me was the line “decide today whom you will serve”. This is a question that we face all too often in life. Sometimes the desire for a good reputation, extra money in the pocket, physical achievement, or just getting through the day can end up dominating everything. This passage reminds me to stop and take inventory of who or what I am serving and make a choice for God … which, coincidently, is a choice that helps be become most fully who I am. This is no easy choice. It is challenging for me and many people to shift or keep our focus on God.
The people whom Joshua addressed also had a tough time. They had to remind themselves of all the great things God had done for them throughout their history. It was God, they remembered, who brought us out of slavery in the land of Egypt. It was God who performed great miracles and protected us along our journey.
When I struggle in my faith, I remember the faith of the Israelites who even in tough times proclaimed the great things God had done in their lives. I too recall the great things God has done in my life. Though it may not make things easier, I know that I can stand with Joshua and the Israelites and proclaim:
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.