Hosea was a “shamed” man. His wife had left him for another. Remembering that the culture and society of the Middle East are driven by the preservation of one’s honor and the avoidance of shame, we can infer that Hosea was a man who lived with constant shame brought on by the fact that his family and neighbors knew his plight. Consequently, when God calls him to be a prophet, one who speaks the Word of God, the likely scenario includes the probability that no one would pay him any attention.
As we listen to him in the first reading for today’s liturgy, one line caught my attention: “Their heart is false” (Hosea 10:2a). He is speaking of the people of Israel who have forsaken the covenant relationship that had been forged at Sinai. However, one cannot miss the overtones of the statement made by a man whose wife has also been guilty of a false heart. Hosea knows the shame of his wife’s betrayal; he knows the pain of facing his neighbors every day. Is it any wonder that he likens the false-heartedness of the children of Israel to his own situation? Throughout the Book of the Prophet Hosea, we find constant references to his marital situation which he likens to the situation that exists between God and the people of Israel. They have forsaken the One who loves them.
Our covenant with God was forged on a different mountain, Mt. Calvary. Rather than the blood of goats and lambs, our covenant was sealed in the blood of Jesus, shed for us on the cross. Just as the Hebrew people believed that their sins were forgiven when they were sprinkled with the blood of the Temple sacrifices, we believe that we have been washed clean of our sins by the blood of Jesus and in the waters of Baptism.
There are those who maintain that our culture and our society has strayed away from the covenant that was made with God by Jesus. They look to the lawyers and legislators and political leaders to return us to the days when we cherished the Law of God over the laws of men. Israel believed that their exile to the kingdom of Babylon was their punishment for forsaking the Sinai covenant. Hosea rubs the noses of the people into the fact that although God has blessed them with abundance, they have turned to other gods. The same could be said of us. We live in a land blessed with freedom and prosperity. Rather than being grateful for that abundance, we have turned to hoarding. “More” has become our god. Time will tell what becomes of a nation that turns away from God’s Law.
However, this much I do know. We cannot look to politicians and legislators and judges and presidents and governors to effect a change in our ways. Change has to start on a personal level. When we begin to remember the source of our abundance and remember what God has done for us, when we change our personal behavior, we can effect a change in the behavior of our culture and society. It is slow and hard work, but it is the only way that change will come.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator