Joshua said to all the people: "Revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 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."
But Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good." And the people said to Joshua, "No, we will serve the Lord!" Then Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him." And they said, "We are witnesses." He said, "Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." The people said to Joshua, "The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey."
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of Go; and he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. Joshua said to all the people, "See, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Lord that he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, if you deal falsely with your God." So Joshua sent the people away to their inheritances.
After these things Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred ten years old.
Then little children were being brought to Jesus in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs." And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
We've just read the story where parents brought their children to Jesus for him to lay his hands on them and say a prayer. Parents instinctively want what is best for their children. They recognize Jesus as someone through whom God is working in a life-giving way, and so they bring their children, their loved ones, to him. In our own times, parents who have an appreciation of Jesus and his message and life will have the same desire to bring their children to him. They recognize Jesus as God's unique gift to us and they want that gift for their loved ones because they want what is best for them. When parents try to bring their children to Jesus they often meet with obstacles of various kinds. In this morning's gospel those obstacles take the form of Jesus' own disciples who tried to prevent parents from bringing their children to Jesus.
We find a struggle in the gospel between those who are trying to bring children to Jesus and those who are trying to stop children from coming to Jesus. The disciples are resisting the desire of the parents for their children. In the midst of this struggle, Jesus is not a passive spectator. He insists, against his disciples, that the children be allowed to come to him. The gospel assures us that in our own struggle to bring our loved ones to the Lord, and to bring ourselves to him, the Lord is always working with us. The strength of his desire to have others meet with him and, thereby, find life will overcome the various obstacles that are placed in the way of our loved ones coming to him. We need to trust that the Lord will find a way of bringing people to him, in spite of the resistances that may be there, of whatever kind. [MH]