Daily Homily: Return, O Israel, to the Lord Your God

Friday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Hosea 14:2-10
Psalm 51:3-4,8-9,12-13,14 and 17
Matthew 10:16-23

Like the Book of Amos, the Book of Hosea concludes on a positive note. Amos foresaw the day when God would raise up the fallen hut of David, bring new wine to the people, and restore the fortunes of Israel (Amos 9:13-15). Hosea concludes with a plea for Israel to return to the Lord and to ask for forgiveness. In response, God will heal the people and love them. Israel will flourish like a garden and blossom like a vine.

Israel should not trust in Assyria to save them, nor in idols to protect them. Rather, God is the one who answers Israel’s prayers and cares for Israel. When we approach God, who is steadfast like a cypress tree, we shall blossom like the lily and take root like the poplar tree. God is the one who gives us life, nourishes us and builds us up.

The Psalmist today recognizes that God is the one who teaches us wisdom. The wise man understands the action of God in history and in the heart of man: on the one hand, God purifies us, wipes out our offense, washes us from our guilt, and cleanses us of our sin; on the other, God raises us up, giving us a new heart and a new spirit. This is the action of the grace won for us by Christ: it purifies us from sin and elevates us to divine life in the Spirit.

Hosea’s symbolic use of marriage to describe the relationship between God and his people was used throughout the New Testament. Jesus is the bridegroom who, through his passion and death, weds himself to God’s people in the New Covenant. Paul develops Hosea’s image to symbolize the union between the Christian community and Jesus Christ achieved through word and sacrament. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul emphasizes the self-emptying love that Christ has revealed on the cross to manifest most completely the covenant affection (hesed) God has always had for his people. «By sharing in the love of Christ, husband and wife manifest the divine hesed to one another in their mutual self-giving. In the Book of Revelation, marriage symbolizes the union between the Lord and his people in the heavenly Jerusalem» (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 255).

Hosea foretold not only the exile of Israel into Egypt (Hosea 8:13), but also that God will call Israel out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). Matthew quotes this same passage and shows how it is fulfilled in the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-21). Jesus identifies himself with God’s people by reliving their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land (see M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 255). As the New Moses, he leads the new people of God on a New Exodus.

Jesus also quotes the Book of Hosea in his confrontation with the Pharisees. The Lord God desires merciful love not empty sacrifices. Hosea exhorted Israel to act with integrity toward God and neighbor and avoid any worship connected with the pagan god Baal. When the Pharisees criticize Jesus’ fellowship with sinners and actions on the Sabbath, Jesus teaches them that «compassion toward others must override self-concerned legalism» (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 255).

Through the New Covenant, what Israel lost through their unfaithfulness to the covenant, Gentiles and Jews are granted through Jesus Christ: «Now that [the Gentiles] have received the preaching of the Gospel and have been justified by faith in Christ, the Gentiles along with Jews in the Christian community are ‘children of the living God’ (Hos 2:1) and can rejoice in the Lord calling them ‘my people’ through the new covenant (Rom 9:25-10:13)» (M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press, 256). In appointing the Apostles and sending them out, Jesus is gathering the tribes together and restoring Israel. On their mission to the lost sheep of Israel, the Apostles are themselves like sheep in the midst of wolves: they are told that they will encounter opposition from Jews, from Gentile rulers, and even from their own family.

Jesus’ statement about not finishing their mission to the towns of Israel before the coming of the Son of Man can be interpreted in at least three ways. It could mean that the Apostles will not finish visiting all of the towns before Jesus’ passion and death; it could also mean that they will not finish before the judgment of the Temple; or it could mean that the mission to Israel will continue until Jesus comes again in glory (see C. Mitch and E. Sri, The Gospel of Matthew, Baker Academic, 146).

We thank God today for his faithful and merciful love toward us. We ask for forgiveness for all the evil we have committed and ask God to purify us and grant us eternal life. We ask him for the courage to preach the Gospel in word and through our actions. We rejoice that we are part of his people and we look forward to his coming in glory and to sharing in the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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