August 13, 2011 - Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

There is something humorous about the image in the first reading. Joshua tells the people that they should decide if they will worship the Lord or some other god. The humor is not really visible from our perspective; perhaps the angels are laughing though. We human beings have this feeling, this attitude toward God, as if we were on a shopping trip, trying to decide between the yellow umbrella and the blue one. Even if we do choose the Lord, we are tempted to think that he ought to be grateful.

But God is not running for office. He does not need our vote. If no one on earth ever worshipped him, he would continue perfectly happy forever. He does not in any sense need us, but we do need him. There are no other options, no other gods to follow. We could worship other gods, but they will do nothing for us because they are not real.

God is the only God. He is God above and God below and God of all the earth. We cannot have a revolution against God. We cannot impeach him. He is the fundamental fact of reality, and we are weak creatures in a universe he created. So it is humorous that we humans feel like we are towering over him with the power to choose for or against, weighing the benefits versus the costs. We might as well decide whether 4 is going to be our number after 3 as decide whether the Lord will be our God.

Joshua warns the people of Israel that by choosing reality and leaving behind ignorance they are doing something dangerous: never again may they return to the false gods who do nothing for them. A reasonable person might ask why anyone, having entered into reality, would forsake it for a lie.

We know, since we have read the rest of the story, that the Israelites often did forsake the Lord and worship false and empty gods. They did it for the same reason we do: the Lord is not doing what we want, he is not our tame pet. Whether we disobey God for a fruit or money or whatever, we are afraid that he will not provide what we need; we are afraid that he is our enemy. On the contrary, if the Lord did need selling points here is one: he loves us.