Life is difficult because we have to make choices. Some choices are simple; others are complicated. Some are easy while others are difficult. There are choices which are even life-changing. Such is the case of today’s First Reading (Jos 24:15-18). We are familiar with the story of Joshua. He succeeded Moses and became the general of the Israelites. He became the leader who brought them to the promised land. It was not easy. After so much fight and struggle, they finally settled in peace. All along God was with them – helping them and giving them victory. Every step of the journey God accompanied them. Now Joshua asks them to renew their loyalty and commitment to the Lord. He invited them to make a choice for God!
Joshua is aware that soldiers get tired. They become afraid and abandon their pledge. He is asking them to choose to have faith in the God of Israel even when it is hard. He insists that they be faithful to the covenant and not turn away from Him in order to trust other neighboring gods. He himself makes a courageous example: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”
It is important to make wise and enlightened choices. One modern-day Joshua is DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. To flashback a little, when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1968 (29 years ago), he was then a young man of 25. Incidentally, he was confirmed dead on the same date. Back then, he had a bright future ahead. He had an MBA degree from UP Diliman with a high paying, promising career at San Miguel Corporation. But when he lined up to see Ninoy’s bruised and blooded body gunned down as a martyr because he believed that “the Filipino is worth dying for,” he left the comfortable corporate world to dedicate his life to public service.
He became the “idol” of the masses in Naga where he became Mayor for three consecutive terms. He sought to change things by fighting bravely corruption, vice, poverty and economic stagnation. He transformed Naga into a 1st class city by his transparency and integrity. In 2000, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for exemplary Government Service. He was simple and humble. He walked his talked. When his term as Mayor ended in 1998, he stepped down quietly ignoring suggestions for him to seek higher office or perpetuate himself in power. At his death, he left a legacy of service. Many observed that he brought back honor and dignity to public office.
In our Gospel (Jn 6:60-69), Jesus concludes his long discourse on identifying himself as the “Bread of Life.” His hearers are shocked and scandalized. “This is a hard saying!” And they stopped following him returning to their former way of life. The difficulty made them loose heart. But Peter gave an example of a decisive and determined faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life!”
Through our Readings, Jesus is reminding us 3 things:
1. Our choices must be attuned with God’s will.
Life is a constant struggle between good and evil; right and wrong. God presents us His standards. Thus we are to apply good sense, reason and logic to our choices. Most of all, our enlightened choices must be guided by faith. We choose how best to serve God, not ourselves.
2. Right choices bring great happiness and peace.
Even today there are still teachings of Jesus which are hard to accept. Others simply want to choose which commandment are convenient to do. Other issues become sensitive and controversial such as laws on marriage, divorce or abortion. Yet we choose to serve God despite the difficulties. Remember these are commandments – God’s order! It is not a matter to our liking. The lines from the song “Impossible Dream” says (after choosing to do right): “and my heart will lie peaceful and calm / when I’m laid to my rest.”
3. We are challenged to be a person of commitment.
Today, God is inviting us to review our basic commitment to love and serve Him. Right choices without commitment is vain. Our commitment must be in season or out of season. Like marriage, it should be rain or shine; in good times and in bad; through sickness or health. We are to commit and press on because we have great faith in Jesus whom we are following.
Let us pray for the grace of not getting tired of choosing God courageously.