DARLING, COME BACK TO ME!
First Reading: Hosea 2:16,17-18,21-22
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 144(145):2-9
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:18-26
Whenever I read about the prophet Hosea, I often recall a funny childhood experience; when I had difficulty in understanding why Prophet Hosea married a prostitute. In understanding Hosea’s case, we must first bear in mind that the name ‘Hosea’ means “salvation.” He lived at the same time as Isaiah and Amos. It would seem that on one early occasion in his life, God demanded a very difficult task from Hosea by asking him to marry a woman who would prove unfaithful to him, while he would remain ever faithful. Put differently, while Hosea must always love her, she will continue to disgrace his love. The rationale behind that idea was to present a ‘pageant’ to Israel through the questionable marriage of Hosea. It was to be a symbolic lesson; where Hosea would play the part of God, while his unfaithful wife, the part of Israel. This way, the story of Hosea switches back and forth between judgment and salvation. This presents the trauma Hosea felt because of his wife’s unfaithfulness and the happiness they found in their restored relationship. Hence, in the book of Hosea, we see Israel’s unfaithfulness in contrast to God’s fidelity, patience, mercy, and faithfulness. The primary metaphor is Israel as a wife, and secondly, Israel as a child of an unfaithful relationship. Likewise, God is the faithful husband, and secondly, a loving and long-suffering Parent. While Israel was unfaithful in carrying out her responsibilities in both cases, God bluntly called her actions adulterous, harlotry, or whoredom because she failed to live out the demands of the covenant made with God, but preferred idolatry. Hosea’s situation has something to teach us today.
Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant, God, the faithful Bridegroom (Husband) of Israel continues to call Israel to himself, to repentance and promises to betroth Israel to Himself forever with His faithfulness, integrity, justice, tenderness and love, as we see in today’s first reading. In the era of Christ, this imagery of the faithful Bridegroom continues to linger on. We see in the gospels how Christ talks of Himself as the bridegroom whose presence denotes rejoicing, feasting and joy: “surely, the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them…” (Matt. 9:15) Needless to say, with his presence, the messianic age has dawned; as such, the era of mourning is gone. The practical effect of the Bridegroom’s presence among His people is what is seen in today’s gospel – one who intervenes in the people’s helpless condition, wiping every tear from their eyes, as reflected in the healing of the woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and in the resurrection of the official’s daughter.
Dear friends in Christ, we may be unfaithful, but the Lord is always faithful, for He cannot deny His very Self (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13). God’s faithfulness should inspire us in living out his commands. His faithfulness is our hope. We too, like the Israelites, have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the idolatry of money, material goods, hedonism, denial and rejection of God, and even the subtle realm of selfishness that, even when we tend to do God’s work among the people, it leads us to seek our selfish interests by manipulating the people into giving us their resources, rather than promoting the glory of God. We must allow ourselves to be betrothed by the Lord who is ‘kind, merciful, full of compassion, slow to anger, and abounding in love,’ as today’s Psalmist speaks of Him.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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