August 23, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
August 23, 2015
Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Fr. George Smiga
There are high stakes in today’s first reading. Joshua has led the tribes of Israel out of the wilderness into the Promised Land, and he knows that his life is coming to an end. But he is not confident that Israel will continue to worship the Lord who led them out of the land of Egypt. In fact, Joshua is afraid that they will begin to worship other gods, the gods of the land in which they now reside. So Joshua calls the people together and he asks them to decide which god will they serve? And he adds, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Now at first impression, Joshua appears bold and dramatic in this reading. But he is actually humble and wise, because he offers us the most effective way of influencing others. There are two steps to Joshua’s method: freedom and example. Joshua deeply wants Israel to continue to follow the Lord, but he knows that Israel is free. Therefore he knows that the tribes of Israel must make their own choice of who to follow. So Joshua owns that freedom and asks the Israelites to decide. But, then he adds his own example: “As for me, I will follow the Lord.”
When we seek to influence people towards something that is good, we should follow the method of Joshua. First, we must admit that we cannot make decisions for other people. They are free. But then we should offer the example of our own lives.
You might deeply wish that your children or grandchildren would become active members in a church community. But you cannot make such a decision for them. Therefore shaming or coercing them is not productive. All you can do is own their freedom and say, “You must decide how you are going to serve God in your life.” But then add your example, “As for me, I intend to continue to practice my Catholic faith.”
You might sincerely desire to stop somebody at work or at school from treating other people with unkindness and prejudice. But, you cannot force that person to be that way. All you can do is say, “You have the freedom to decide whether you are going to treat other people with honesty and fairness.” But then you should add, “As for me, I intend to treat people with respect.”
You might deeply desire to lift someone you care about out of depression or to move him or her beyond a grief over someone that they have lost. But doing that is not in your power. All you can do is to say, “Only you can decide whether you are going to put grief behind you and move forward.” But then you can add, “As for me, I believe that there is hope and that life can continue.”
We would all desire to move the people we care about towards something good. But our example has to be enough. It is important to say, “This is what I believe. This is where I stand.” Then we trust that God will use our example to move the hearts that we cannot move and to lead the people we love closer to life.