Freedom to Serve
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
The Book of Joshua tells the story of how an enslaved people found freedom in a Land of their own. As the Book concludes, Joshua gathers the leaders of the Tribes of Israel together. It seems there is some memory loss. Joshua pointedly reminds them of their God, who guided them from slavery to freedom. The freedom the people enjoy is more than political freedom from oppression. It is the deep desire to choose to do something good. Joshua declares he and his family will serve the Lord (Joshua 24: 15b). The Lord leads the people with strength and might to serve God in their care for one another.
The idea of “freedom” in the Book of Joshua is found deep in the heart of God. As reflected in the Scripture, the story of Israel tells the story of a people loved, elected, and chosen by God. Their freedom from slavery had nothing to do with their merit or achievement. God freely elected them to be the People of God for the sake of the World. God acted freely without compulsion or dependency. Ultimately, freedom is not realized in the choice between good and evil. Freedom is the willingness to do what is right because it is the right thing to do.
As with any gift in life, we do not possess our skills, abilities, and talents for the sake of ourselves. God is not an entity concerned with God. We sense the Divine in the graciousness, creativity, and surprise of life. When Joshua declares he and his family “will serve the Lord,” he freely decides to be like God in all the affairs of life.
Chapter twenty-four concludes the Book of Joshua with verses formed somewhere between a deep spiritual reflection and the proclamation of a Creed. We need to stop and reflect on what we are doing with our lives. We need to pause as a Nation to consider our obligations to others. We need to take an inventory of ourselves to make sure we are living in fact the principles we state on paper. We have responsibilities to one another that transcend any personal relationship we might enjoy with God.
Joshua declares his allegiance to the Lord at Shechem, recalling Abraham’s encounter with God. In his declaration of fidelity to God, Joshua freely stands in the tradition of Abraham, the Father of the Nations. The wonderful teaching of the Hebrew Scripture looms great in our World today. We belong but to one human family created by God, who has blessed us with the gift of one another. Serving God commands us to realize our responsibilities to one another.
Blessings and gratitude to you, Holy Community, for striving to give of yourselves in all the circumstances of life. Thank you for being like unto God as you cope with the joys and sorrows of life. May people continue to find in you a fine example of what it means to “serve the Lord.”
As things begin to return to a new normal, we at The Interfaith Peace Project are here for you in any way that you need us. The Antioch Center is now open to fully vaccinated people on Wednesdays, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. We are vigilant and will adjust to any and all recommendations from the state and county. We will continue our work through Zoom as we add in person programs. If you would like to schedule an in person or Zoom program or would like a phone appointment with any of us, give us a call. You may call or email Tom at: