Sometimes, I wonder about those loony Israelites.
We’ve been hearing about their exploits—and the favors they received from the Lord—in the ‘daily Mass’ lectionary cycle for the past several weeks.
We’ve read about all the great patriarchs and prophets: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua.
We’ve cheered along, as the Lord liberated his beloved people from slavery in Egypt…and led them ultimately to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34: 1-12)…where, upon entering, they famously swore an oath of loyalty: ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’ (Joshua 24: 14-29)
Then, in today’s reading from the Book of Judges, we learn that the Israelites’ promise didn’t have much staying power once Joshua left the scene. ‘The children of Israel offended the Lord by the serving the Ba’als…they followed the other gods of the nations around them…’ (Judges 2:11)
Those loony Israelites, right? What the heck were they thinking, dumping the one true God—the One who’d done so much for them—in favor of minor local deities like Sun-Ba’al…or Fertility-Ba’al?
What’s up with that, Chosen People: You’re so easily distracted. So weak in your faith. So feeble in the face of temptation. Is it really so hard, I muttered silently in my heart, to live a grateful life? Why couldn’t the Israelites simply be faithful to their promises, even as the Lord had been true to them?
But then, even while I was still enjoying the taste of those ‘Tsk! Tsk!s’ in my mouth, our homilist pointed out that we’re really not so much different than those loony Israelites from ancient days.
Granted, we may not be tempted to worship at the shrine of Sun-Ba’al these days, he observed. But consider where do tend to invest our civic treasure in modern times – in hundred-million-dollar temples to Foot-Ba’al…Base-Ba’al…and Basket-Ba’al.
Something to think about, perhaps, the next time I find my mind wandering at the end of Sunday Mass…and looking ahead to that noon kickoff.