Be Childlike and put away your strange gods

August 17, 2019 – Saturday of the 19th Week in Ordinary Time

From the Book of 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.

From the Gospel of 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.

Homily

Children are very special to Jesus because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Even though at that time, people believed that children have no social significance and status. Children do not have anything to play in the Jewish society. This was the reason why the disciples tried to stop those who brought the children near Jesus. The disciples believed that there was no reason for Jesus to waste his time with these insignificant children.

However, what we have heard from the Gospel was the other way around. Jesus made that event to teach something to the people. He emphasized the qualities of children who are dependent to adults. This reveals that children are more open and trusting to people around them. They are open to the surprises of God. Thus, their humility and simplicity make them also sensitive to God’s presence.

In today’s readings we are invited to dwell on both qualities of children, of their weakness and strength from which we adults could greatly learn. So, I want you to remember these two characteristics, the attitudes of being childish and childlike.

Being “childish” reveals our negative and selfish attitudes. A child can throw up tantrums when he/she will not get what he/she wants. When this happens, a child cries aloud and would even scream on the spot particularly when there are more people around. This is unconsciously by a child to draw attention. This attitude is an unconscious form of control and manipulation towards a parent until the parent gives in to what the child wants.

Being childish is being selfish to get what we want no matter how unfair that would be to others. Being childish only focuses on what “satisfies me” – for self-satisfaction and on what “I can gain”- for self-promotion. Thus, being childish prevents us to “listen” to what is more important. It also prevents us to believe and to accept other ideas because we are already convinced of our own judgments and beliefs.

This is what our first reading from the Book of Joshua tells us. Joshua reminded the people to “put away the strange gods that were among them.” The tendency of the people to seek strange gods other the true God was a form of selfishness. They sought the gods of their foreign neighbors because they believed that those gods can satisfy their wants and desires. And because God’s way is difficult and different so the people would choose an easy one.

This happens also to us when we opt to choose our personal desires rather than God’s desires, or when we choose to trust our human will and understanding rather than God’s wisdom, or when we desire to become dependent with our addictions and compulsive behaviors rather than God’s invitation for us to be free.

Being childish makes us blind to what God shows us and to what is happening around us today. We refuse to see the suffering of others because we tend to only see ourselves. This attitude would also make us deaf to what God is telling us now. It makes us deaf to the many cries of those who are continually killed, murdered, abused and oppressed because we only tend to listen to our own cry for self-satisfaction.

Hence, Jesus calls us to put away our strange gods and those childish attitudes in us and to become childlike. A person who is childlike listens and discerns to God’s desires. It means that despite our insecurities and anxieties in life, we put our trust in the generosity of God. It also requires that we grow in our confidence with God.

And when we learn these, then, we allow ourselves to be surprised by God because we become open and welcoming of God’s presence. Our sensitivity to God’s presence shall move us too to become aware of the needs of others which makes us self-giving and life-giving to others, a true quality of being childlike. Hinuat pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR

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