18 August 2009. Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time
Judges 2, 11-19; Psalm 106; Matthew 19, 16-22
Generations have passed since the death of Joshua, and the Israelites continue to cleanse the Promise Land of its native inhabitants. In the succeeding years, there were intermarriages between Israel and the Canaanites who worshipped Baal. Eventually the younger generation began to take Baal worship, and thus turned away from Yahweh. Seeing the possible chaos which the Israelites bring down on themselves by their disobedience, Yahweh sends temporary leaders called Judges to save them. But once the leader dies, Israel reverts back to idol worship, and unfortunately, become worse than before.
The first reading is the calling of Gideon, a humble man, who led the Israelites to victory from the Midianites. Gideon tears down his father’s altar to Baal and called the scattered Israelites for battle. To prove that Yahweh is the hand behind their victory, Yahweh needed a smaller number for battle. The selection process is strange: he leads the men to a river to drink. Those who cup their hands to drink are sent home; those who lap the water with their tongues, as horses drink, are chosen to lead the battle. Spying on enemy lines, Gideon overhears a Midianite soldier’s dream: a small loaf of bread is able to capture Midianite tents. Taking the cue, Gideon with God’s army, surrounds the tent and confuses the Midianites with loud trumpets and broken jars. Because of the noise, the Midianites slay each other and flee. Euphoric of this victory, the Israelites wants Gideon to be king, but Gideon refuses pointing to Yahweh as the true and only king, who fights with them and ensuring victory.
The author of the first reading took pains in pointing out Gideon’s status. Gideon answered God, “Please, my Lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the lowliest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.” But the Lord assured him with only these words: “I am with you.” With God on our side, how can we lose? God’s protection assures victory. But many of the judges are plagued with an insecurity: the feeling that they are always marginalized and oppressed. A large part of this low self-esteem is practically Israel’s status: they are not natives of the land of Canaan. The judge Ehud is left-handed, but because of this, he is able to kill the Moabite king with a sword strapped on his right thigh. Deborah and Jael are women, but they succeed against the Canaanites and Sisera, the Canaanite king. Jepthah is a son of a prostitute, but he led Israel against the Ammonites. But amidst their violent surroundings, God is able to lead Israel into victory through people who think that it is impossible to lead their nation with their weaknesses, disabilities or low stature. The Gospel reminds us therefore that with God, nothing is impossible. St. Paul reminds us that our weaknesses highlights the work of God. Not that we don't have to do anything: Gideon and Paul worked hard but trusted the Lord.
A large number of people suffer from low self-esteem. We get to know how low our self-esteem when we see ourselves blaming others. We don’t own up or assume responsibility so we are saying that we are victims of circumstances. Second, we deny our hurts and negative feelings. We do not want to feel our feelings. We deny the truth of ourselves. Third, we depend on others to accept us: we feel good if we are affirmed. If others give us negative feedback, or when we think that we have been ignored (usually it is not maliciously done), we feel bad because we find ourselves rejected. The more we suffer from low self-esteem, the more we will not be able to see our own strengths and at the same time, we will not believe that God can make us leaders.
The story of the judges is supposed to inspire us to heroic leadership. Many groups now initiate projects that build communities. They dump the idea of waiting for top leaders to move. We have those who build houses and infrastructures. Those who offer their time in volunteer work such as the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines who do their part in the transformation of our corrupt society, which the judges of old have been doing during their time. Are we up to do some things that are larger than ourselves?
Check this out: About the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines