In the first reading, Hosea brings out two of Israel’s sins: establishing a line of kings without God’s approval; worshiping false idols. The separate line of kings of Israel began with Jeroboam I (931-910 BC) of the tribe of Ephraim, when the ten northern tribes broke away from Judah after the reign of King Solomon. To avoid the people of Israel returning to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, Jeroboam set up two golden calves for worship at sanctuaries in Bethel and in Dan.
In his message to Israel, Hosea commands Israel to cast away the calf of Samaria and accuses Ephraim (Israel) and building altars that instead of expiating sin, became occasions of sin. Ultimately, the people have rejected the Lord, his law and his presence and Hosea concludes that God will punish Israel for their idolatry and send them into exile. This is where the people will begin to long for knowledge of God and of his word.
The Psalm ridicules the worship of idols of silver and gold: they are merely human creations that cannot speak, see, hear, smell, feel, or walk. The Lord, by contrast, speaks his word and creates all things; he sees and knows all things; he hears the cry of his people and listens to their prayer; God smells the sweet scent of sacrifice, and prayer (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18: 2 Corinthians 2:14-15; Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18; Revelation 5:8); creation is the work of God’s hands; and God walks among his people (Leviticus 26:12). Our God is a living God, who gives his people divine life. Those who make and worship idols, however, become like the dead idols they worship.
In the Gospel, Jesus cures a man possessed by a demon who prevented the man from speaking. The mute man was brought to Jesus by others, indicating how important it is for us to bring others to Christ. In this episode, we see how the dominion of Satan is one of slavery and imprisonment; while the dominion of Christ is one of freedom.
The reaction of the crowds is that of wonder before God’s power; the reaction of the Pharisees, on the other hand, is one of contempt and disdain. The crowd has become simple like a child, which is a condition for entering into God’s kingdom. They marvel at the wonders God has done for them and their hearts open up to their heavenly Father. They delight in and approve of what Jesus has done. The Pharisees, however, reject Jesus’ actions as a display of demonic power. Instead of marveling they explain the miracle away in a complicated and contradictory way. Jesus will show them the falsity of their claim: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (see Mark 3:22-24).
Jesus continues his mission of teaching, proclaiming and healing. He teaches with authority in the synagogues, showing the fulfillment of Scripture in his person and bringing the Old Law to fulfillment. He proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom, using parables to illustrate the nature and characteristics of God’s lordship. The child-like, those born from above, those who believe in him can enter into God’s kingdom. The kingdom of Satan is a dominion of sin, hatred, sadness, disease, slavery and death. Through his miraculous cures, Jesus manifests that God’s kingdom is a dominion of grace, love, joy, well-being, freedom and life.
Unlike the heart-less idols of Israel, God has a heart that is moved to pity. He sees the needs of his children and gives them everything that is good. He has mercy on them and leads them like a Good Shepherd. Through his Son, he calls other men to share in this mission. His priestly people and his ministerial priests will share in the threefold office of his Son.
The laity share in Christ’s priestly-sanctifying office by their prayers, apostolate and lives lived in the Spirit. These actions become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist, these sacrifices are offered to the Father along with the body of the Lord. “Worshiping everywhere by their holy actions, the laity consecrate the world itself to God, everywhere offering worship by the holiness of their lives (Lumen Gentium, 34). The laity share in Christ’s prophetic office since they are witnesses to Christ and have the sense of the faith and the grace of the word. They fulfill this mission by evangelization, proclaiming Christ by their words and the testimony of life (CCC 904-907). Finally, the laity share in Christ’s kingly office, working to overcome the reign of sin in themselves, promoting justice and morality, and cooperating with pastors in the service of the ecclesial community through the exercise of different kinds of ministry (CCC, 908-913).
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].