Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Freely choosing to follow God

The best way to gather up and lead a group of people is to not insist they be gathered up and led at all. Instead, it is to simply lay out the options for how they should proceed, and let them decide. Joshua sets before the tribes of Israel a clear choice: which god do you want to serve? The people, having been neither coerced nor sweet-talked, respond with something St. Ignatius would recognize: they want to serve the God who shows his love in deeds more than words, the one whose miracles and wonders led them out of slavery. The best argument God could provide on his behalf was to do what he naturally does: love, liberate, save. They freely chose to follow this God, and it made all the difference.

Which gods do we spend most of our energy on each day? The god of work, success, pride or the God who provides a depth of peace and love nothing else can match?

—Br. Joe Hoover, SJ, is a writer, actor, and poetry editor at America: The Jesuit Review and also works with Crown Heights Mutual Aid. He is a Jesuit of the Midwest Province living in New York City.

 

Prayer

May it please the supreme and divine Goodness to give us all abundant grace ever to know his most holy will and perfectly to fulfill it.

—St. Ignatius of Loyola