Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
At the end of the Book of Joshua, we find written the final acts of the eponymous hero, who is old and advanced in years. Joshua summons the elders, the leaders, the judges and the officers of Israel, to lead them in one last great act. First, he sets the context, reviewing the national history of Israel, beginning with Abraham and ending with the conquests of the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites. For Joshua, the interpretative key to this history is that it was not ultimately the sword or bow of any man, but rather God himself who liberated the Israelites. Within this context, the great act Joshua asks for is a public and explicit decision. Which God will the people choose to serve: the gods whom their ancestors served beyond the river or the gods of the Amorites in whose country they were then dwelling, or the LORD? “As for me and my household,” Joshua says, “we will serve the LORD.”
If you were given the same three options on a multiple choice test, I am sure that you would pick the right option. The test would have to include at least a fourth option for our contemporaries, which would be to serve no God at all. Lately this has been a popular decision, but to choose the service of no god at all is to miss Joshua’s point. Substitute “good” for “god” and restate Joshua’s challenge this way: “choose which good in your life will be the greatest.” When it comes down to it, our every action must aim at some good, at some desired outcome. Among these goods, there must be some organization, such that some goods are more desirable than others. For example, parents are often forced to organize these two goods: a peaceful night’s sleep, and the care of a wailing child. In the middle of the night, when the child is wailing, the parent must choose which is the higher good: continued sleep or care for the child. It is not possible to choose not to choose. You either choose sleep or you choose the child.
In the practical order, there must always be some highest good. When we are reviewing our life or our day, we would do well to consider how our actions answer the questions “Which good is, for me, the greatest?” and “which god do I serve?” May the answer to both questions always be, by God’s grace, the LORD.