Thu, 15 August 2019
(Jos.24:1-13; Ps.136:1-3,16-18,21-22,24; Mt.19:3-12)
“I gave you a land which you had not tilled
and cities which you had not built, to dwell in.”
All of our lives come to us by the grace of God, “for His mercy endures forever.” It is never by our own hands that anything good is accomplished. As the Lord says to the Israelites, “It was not your sword or your bow,” by which they conquered the nations – emphasizing that it was He who destroyed them – so we must know, too, that it is the Lord who goes before us and brings us to the land He has prepared for us; and it is by His hand that all our enemies, all obstacles, are conquered.
Our first reading and our psalm speak particularly of the Lord’s finally bringing the Israelites safely into the Promised Land. Joshua, who has by God’s grace accomplished the work commissioned upon him through Moses, now seeks to remind the people of the blessings God has bestowed upon them in giving them this fruitful land, that they might not forget their God and the praise due Him. As Moses prepared the people with his speech before they entered the Promised Land, so Joshua exhorts them now that they have attained their goal; and the focus of both addresses is that they not forget their God who provides them with all things.
In our gospel Jesus teaches us of the blessing of chastity, of the sanctity of marriage and the godly call to celibate life. Of what does He speak but of the Promised Land become quite real in the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem. We are told throughout the letters of especially St. Paul that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and that sins against their purity and integrity are the gravest of offenses, for in these the sin is so real, so present, even to our flesh. In these temples we dwell. These temples we must keep holy, we must keep pure. “It is so difficult,” you might say. Then remember the Lord’s words to the Israelites; remember that it is He who “slew powerful kings” before them, that it is by His power they conquered, and you will be able to say with them that it is the Lord who “freed us from our foes.”
Jesus says of celibacy, perhaps the greatest gift of God and the closest to Him we can come, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, only those to whom it is given to do so,” and this is our key to attaining its grace, and indeed the grace of any form of chastity: we must know it is He who works in us and we must seek His blessing “for the sake of God’s reign”; and then He will make us steady and strong in the fields of His Promised Land as we call upon and praise His Name.
O LORD, there is no separating what you have joined;
you do not leave us but in your mercy bless our way,
and just so we should remain faithful to one another –
your promise should be our own.
YHWH, all good comes to us at your command, and so we praise and thank you for your merciful love, for your rescuing us from the land of Egypt and bringing us into your kingdom. We cannot leave sin behind and enter into union with you except by your word and your will; and so, join us together, we pray – never let us be separated from you.
It is then we shall know your goodness fully, LORD, when, one with your Son, we renounce all of this world for the sake of your reign and find your grace at work in our lives. Only then will we enter the Land you promise to your faithful children.
You make all our enemies flee before us, LORD; it is you who conquer all kings of sin. For your mercy cannot be bound, and those who cry out to you, you save.