Jos 24:1-13; Ps 136:1-3,16-18,21,22,24; Mt 19:3-12
The constant response of the Lord God to his people is mercy. Again and again throughout their history, the Lord reveals his gracious kindness and his boundless mercy. No matter what happens, God is good. His mercy endures forever. He led the escaped and frightened slaves through the wilderness. When they were resisted in Canaan, the Lord smote great kings and slew powerful kings. He made their land the heritage of Israel his servant, and he freed them from their foes for his mercy endures forever. When Joshua was about to renew the covenant between God and his people, he retold the story of the mercy. When Jesus, the New Joshua, was being challenged about the new covenant that he had come to establish, he retold the story of the mercy. We, too, hear that story retold every time we gather here at the table of the Word and the Eucharist, and the New Covenant is renewed.
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. Everyone stood in rank before the Lord and his servant Joshua. At this solemn assembly Joshua retold the story of the mercy, God’s mercy that endures forever. He spoke of the call of Abram to come out of his people who had served other gods and into the Promised Land. He recalled how Abraham and his son Isaac continued to tell and retell the story of the mercy. Isaac had two sons, and one of these, Israel had twelve sons. While serving the Pharaohs in Egypt they became numerous and were called a threat so they were treated with all the harsh cruelty of slaves. The children of Israel were rescued from Egypt and led by Moses to the boarder of the Promised Land. Joshua was chosen to lead them into fierce battle to claim their inheritance. The gift of the land promised to Abraham was finally theirs. Their victory over all their foes was accomplished by the power of God; He alone was their Savior, their Lord. It was not by their own sword or bow that they were victorious. God’s great mercy is the foundation and the power by which they continued to be a chosen race a holy nation.
This mercy is fulfilled and completed in the New Covenant. The New Joshua, Jesus Christ has come to teach the people all they need to know about the Mercy of God. Some Pharisees attempt to entangle Jesus in a controversy so that he might be like them, just another teacher limited by those who came before him. At the very heart of God’s people is the family. In and through the covenant of love between husband and wife the Lord reveals his tender mercies to each generation of the children of Israel. When the Pharisees appeal to Moses’ command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her. The Lord Jesus reminds them of the real issue at stake here, hardness of heart. He retells the story of mercy from the beginning. “Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.” Husband and wife become one flesh, and how can they be separated except in death? The same hardness of heart survives to our own day. The covenant of marriage has become a mere contract that is easily broken when it becomes a burden. Rather than trying to work through any problems and treat one another with mercy, today couples dismiss one another a first response to difficulty. We give thanks today that our Divine Spouse continues to be faithful and even now shows us his mercy.