JULY 8, 2004- HOMILY
HOSEA 11:1-9; MATTHEW 10:7-15

WHEN ISRAEL WAS A CHILD I LOVED HIM…I TOOK THEM IN MY ARMS; YET THEY HAVE NOT UNDERSTOOD THAT I WAS THE ONE LOOKING AFTER THEM. Much of the Old Testament is concerned with Gods law and issues related to observance of that law. Not only are the first five books known as the Torah, or the Law, a large part of the prophetic literature witnesses to God’s displeasure at the people’s failure to observe the law. This is the case with Hosea whose prophetic message in large part has to do with the infidelity of the people of Israel to the covenant and the punishment that results from their sin.

However, as we hear in today’s first reading, there is another message the prophet is commissioned to deliver, a message that allows us to interpret the law in the proper perspective. It is that God loves Israel with a tender affection. This love is stronger than his anger, and prevents him from punishing as his sinful people deserve. At the thought of their just punishment he exclaims, “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger… for I am God not man.” The purpose of the law is to train his beloved people in ways that lead to happiness; the law itself is a gift of love. And so long after the time of Hosea the Son of God himself, Jesus, taught that the Law and the prophets were summed up by the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with all your strength.”

We know that the message of Hosea did not succeed in gaining a hearing. The result was that the people ended by paying a terrible penalty for their refusal of God’s offer of love and were forced into exile for long years of suffering. The Gospel we have just heard tells how Jesus, a greater than the prophet Hosea, sent his disciples out to preach the same message of love and of the need for conversion from hardness of heart and of infidelity. In his day most of the people failed to listen and became alienated from his offer of forgiveness and love.

Both of these texts invite us today to examine our own heart in the light of the love revealed to us so that we truly remove from every disposition that hardens us against the requirements of the love shown to us here in this liturgy. The Eucharist is surely the sacrament of that same love of God that sent the prophet Hosea to instruct his people and which causes our Lord to come to us to make of us a holy people united among ourselves by the bonds of a love that makes us one in the heart of God himself.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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