As For Me And My House, We Will Serve The LORD!
At the occasion of the entrance of God’s people into the Promised Land, Joshua convokes them to renew the covenant. They must realize that by doing so, they opt for God, they make a decisive choice, and they commit themselves to God and his kingdom. Haven’t we taken the same option at baptism? We are bound to the God of the covenant, a God of tender love. To serve him is a response of love given in freedom.
Few people today take Jesus’ words seriously when he says: “To such as these little children the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Many, for example, discredit the spirituality of the little way of St Therese of Lisieux. We speak of adulthood in Christ, of a human and spiritual maturity. And yet, true adulthood consists in what God wanted us to be in Jesus Christ, in being receptive to the gospel. To the disciples, who have no use for children and who want to cut the gospel to the measure of their petty ideas, Jesus holds up the child not as a sign of innocence but as a model of openness to God and to the good news of his Son. It is the entrance ticket to the kingdom.
1 Reading: Joshua 24:14-29
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, and addressed them, saying: “Fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 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.” 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 all the peoples through whom we passed. At our approach the LORD drove out all the peoples, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” Joshua in turn said to the people, “You may not be able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If, after the good he has done for you, you forsake the LORD and serve strange gods, he will do evil to you and destroy you.” But the people answered Joshua, “We will still serve the LORD.” Joshua therefore said to the people, “You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” They replied, “We are, indeed!” Joshua continued: “Now, therefore, put away the strange gods that are among you and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” Then the people promised Joshua, “We will serve the LORD, our God, and obey his voice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem, which he recorded in the book of the law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was in the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness, for it has heard all the words which the LORD spoke to us. It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.” Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his own heritage. After these events, Joshua, son of Nun, servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 16:1-2a and 5, 7-8, 11
R. (see 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot. R.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. R.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever. R.
Alleluia: cf. Matthew 11:25
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Matthew 19:13-15
Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After he placed his hands on them, he went away.
As Joshua prepares to renew the covenant between God and the people, he must first ascertain the will of the people. Experience had taught him some bitter lessons. Will the people abide by the terms of the covenant and give their undivided loyalty to Yahweh alone? Will they abandon forever the gods of Egypt (including pomegranates, garlics, cucumber etc.) or those of the people in the land they now occupied? The response of the people is unanimous and clearly in the affirmative. As was the custom in treaty making, the large stone remains a permanent witness to the commitment made.
In the Gospel today, one of the shortest we read within the year, Christ receives the children, who stand as a prototype of those who will inherit and inhabit the kingdom of heaven. In what sense?
Children are utterly dependent on their guardians; they do not take an independent stand. Like the people renewing the covenant at Shechem, the citizens of heaven are childlike in their total adherence to God. We live in an era of complexity, and the human personality often reflects that complexity. How often we are forced to wonder about what a person really intends. Transparency is a sterling quality that is often missing in our daily life.
We pray for the trust and confidence, the uncomplicated dedication and love, the assurance and trust of a child.
Let us stand before God in all humility, aware of how much we owe him. And ask God to bless you, and especially your children: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!