August 16, 2019
(St. Stephen of Hungary)
Joshua addressed all the people: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: . . . “I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” Jos_24:1-13
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” Mt_19:3-12
If there’s one thing we can surely attest about God’s love-relationship with us, it’s that – it is unrelenting. And yet, it is never oppressive. We never hear God say, “If you even look at another god, I won’t love you any more.” But we DO hear Him say that if we choose to leave Him, the consequences of that choice could be, and will be, devastating to us.
It would be like choosing to give up on a working car in the middle of a desert because we can’t find a radio station we like. It would leave us with a long and deadly walk to nowhere… And yet, like God, that working car will still, and always, be there, waiting to save us, radio or not.
As Joshua, Moses’ protege, was preparing for the conclusion of his own life, he reminded the Israelites of all the miraculous wonders that God had performed to keep them safe, and to bring them out of the desert and into a land flowing with milk and honey, all because of His great love for them, and despite the weakness of their own love for Him.
You see, many of those Israelites were just children, or may have not even been born when God led their parents and grandparents out of Egyptian slavery. But now, as Joshua was about to leave them and return to God, and he wanted them to know that the choice of survival was in THEIR hands. And he was giving them all the reasons to make the right choice.
You see God always gives us the choice to Love or not. Maybe we can learn to deal with Country instead of Rock for a little while. Maybe we can learn to deal with a toothpaste tube squeezed from the wrong side, or a toilet paper roll unrolled from the top instead of the bottom. Maybe there’s more to reciprocal love than only what WE receive.
You see, beloved, Jesus is telling us today, that if we can’t learn to love one another in a marriage covenant, how can we ever learn to love our eternal God over all those temporal gods – like cars and houses and pets and bank accounts? And these are just some of the small-g gods that can tear us away from the peace and the true Love that God, that Jesus, offers us for eternity.
At the conclusion of Joshua’s pleading discourse to the Israelites, just like God would, and just as Jesus did with His disciples, Joshua gives them a choice by telling them: “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 dwelling.
As for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
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