BLESSING AND CURSING,
reflections on verses from the Twelve Minor Prophets
Year 1, Week 25, Monday Glenroy 1977
The true temple of the Lord
“Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:3
The pagan ruler and the faithful remnant set out a common purpose: to rebuild the temple. And in rebuilding the temple the Chosen People are preserved and the greatness of the Empire is assured.
The Christian people, and the non-Christian people with them are engaged in building a temple. Not the gothic cathedrals which embody medieval Europe, not the baroque splendours which reformed the Church, but a temple structured out of people. Gone are the securities of marble and stone. Gone too are their ponderous mass. We now build the moving structure of a community, in all its intricacy, in its far greater beauty, as mobile as the Spirit who inhabits it, more firm in its determination than the spires of Cologne. The temple we build is the community of humankind, firm, committed, delicate, sensitive, marvellously varied and graced: the true temple of the Lord.
Year 1, Week 25, Tuesday Glenroy 1977
The need for something greater than a temple
“The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” Ezra 6:16
The restoration of the temple has an air of joy about it, and also an element of sadness. It has a ‘fabricated’ quality, for it was an attempt to restore the past. It was a necessity indeed, but not a liberation. The destruction of Solomon’s temple showed the need for something greater than a temple. A truly liberating, lasting ‘temple’, not subject to time, was needed. Rocks last for millennia but eventually decay. Their solid mass seems eternal as the hills, but is in fact ephemeral.
More durable are the forms of life so changing, so transitory but more equipped to last. And humans, when will the rocks conquer them? Their race will last forever, on this or another planet. But what about the individual? By sharing in the life and death of the Christ, individuals become spirit. In them God dwells more than in rocks or living creatures or even in the community of mortal flesh. God dwells supremely in those who have become free, liberated, true, eternal, real, and lastingly triumphant.
Year 1, Week 25, Friday Glenroy 1977
The new glory will surpass the old
“My spirit abides among you; do not fear.” Haggai 2:5
There is no need, therefore, to regret the past and its wonders. The new glory will surpass the old; the new temple will be more grand than the old; the new Church more splendid than the former; the risen Christ more marvelous than the mortal Jesus. What existed was Christ; what will exist is the whole Christ. Jesus of Nazareth will be the Man. The seed will become the tree. The Galilean of the gospels will be forgotten in the splendour of the New Adam. All of this because “my spirit remains among you”, active, raising to greatness.
By grace, we will, like Christ and following him, become all, embracing all, entering all, making of all things our body. What Christ said at the Supper and told his disciples to do after him, they do. They take the bread of the earth and its riches, all the gold of human heart and the silver of human minds, and of them make ‘my body’. That new ‘Temple’ will have surpassed the old.
Year 1, Week 26, Monday Glenroy 1977
These we will restore to life.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.” Zechariah 8:7-8
Think of the children of Biafra, the starving thousands of the Sahel, or the men and women burnt to death with napalm or the millions aborted in the womb: these we will restore to life, to their fullness of life, by the power given to us. The Lord swears by it.
Return and banishment
All those whom ignorance and fear, whom time and distance have banished from the fastness of the Church, these we love with tender compassion. These we lead back and restore them to the City of delight. Those whom fear and rigidity, whom pride and human respect have kept within the confines of the Church, these we banish for a time in the deserts of uncertainty to learn how much indeed they love their Church.
Year 1, Week 26, Tuesday Glenroy 1977
No earthly Jerusalem, only the human being
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” Zechariah 8:23
They will come to those who live in justice and integrity, to learn the truth and to worship in them the God who is with them, the God who is with each person who radiates humour and compassion.
Every person will come to every person, every person will be with every person, each one a living temple. There will be no earthly Jerusalem, only the human being.
Year 1, Week 27 Monday Burwood 1983
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. … But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:1-3, 17.
The Book of Jonah is full of humour. We hear this cantankerous prophet trying to fool everyone with the stereotypes of a prophet. Out of the humour comes a sense of a God who is kindly and forgiving, who understands human foibles and is ready to relent.
The story also forms the backdrop for stories of Jesus on the lake. The prophet is asleep in the hold while the seas rage; Christ is asleep in the stern of the boat. The boatmen cry out in distress; the disciples are overwhelmed by fear. The boatmen try to reach land but cannot because of the heavy seas; the disciples row towards the shore but cannot reach it because of the contrary wind. Once Jonah has been cast into the sea and the calm has returned, the sailors make sacrifices and vows to God; the disciples fall down in worship of Jesus, amazed at the calm he has produced. Most explicitly, Jesus makes the comparison between himself and Jonah who remains for three days and nights in the belly of the whale.
The humour of the Book of Jonah is fulfilled in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Year 1, Week 27, Tuesday Burwood 1983
Jesus and Jonah
“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. … When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. Jonah 3:4-5,10
Jonah is one of the few people of the Old Testament with whom Jesus explicitly compares himself. Jonah has tremendous success, for, in response to his few words of teaching, all in Nineveh, from the king to the animals, do penance; Jesus is a spectacular failure. Jonah is held for three days in the belly of the whale; Jesus is enclosed for three days in the rock of a tomb.
Yet, what occurs partially in the case of Jonah, occurs completely in the person of Jesus. The sin of the world brings Jesus to his death, and in his death all humanity is destroyed. The apocalyptic moment has occurred in the very body of Jesus. God, by raising Jesus from the dead, offers salvation to all mankind.
The Book of Jonah speaks of danger and rescue from danger. The life of Christ leads through death to eternal life.
Year 1, Week 27, Wednesday Glenroy 1977
Humour as a sign of grace.
“But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” Jonah 4:9-11
Humour is a sign of grace. Not the humour that is raucous or cutting, but the humour which proceeds from joy. Humour is the realization of incongruence. And yet this is incongruence is suffused by the realization of a deeper harmony, which, in turn, is the sign, beyond all expectations, of a greater, more loving force, which is not disturbed by the incongruence. Aware of this more loving force, we are delighted, uplifted, for it means we are loved despite being incongruous. In fact, the incongruence becomes attractive. What was incongruous is now valuable, what was senseless is now loved. Justified and loved, we are full of joy, we laugh.
For that reason, the Book of Jonah – a book of humour – is part of revelation.
Year 1, Week 27, Thursday Glenroy 1977
Burning and healing
“See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” Malachi 3:19-20
The same fire which burns up the stubble also brings healing. That one Day is two sided, a day of wrath and a day of blessing.
For that reason, there is no need for anger, no need to keep the wicked in mind. Rather, there is need only to offer blessing and peace, justice and truth. That alone is the Christian concern. That alone is the Christian character and purpose. To those who receive it, it is a blessing. To those who refuse it, it becomes a blazing fire, more unquenchable because it is the very being of the eternal God, who is love. It is the grace of the Church which is everlasting.
Those who refuse it fade away. They retreat at its presence; they are consumed and driven back infinitely and eternally, as in a continuous falling motion, just as those who welcome it know a continuous ascension.
Justice is the Christian concern. It is the two-edged sword, and all else follows in simplicity.
Year 1, Week 27, Friday East Doncaster, 1989
The Day of the Lord
“The day of the Lord is coming, it is near.” Joel 2:1
Joel speaks of the “day of the Lord”. Jesus takes up this phrase when he warns that the day of the Lord is coming. He speaks also of himself coming like a thief in the night. He speaks of the labour pains that come upon a woman, and of the day of his return to create a new heaven and a new earth.
The “day of the Lord” is the time of devastation and retribution. It also refers to the time of consolation, and to the blessings that come with the Lord’s presence.
The two meanings coincide. The moment of grace is both a consolation and the elimination of the thoughts and ways of the past. The interventions of God are both burning and warming. When God makes the new he abandons the old. He destroys and restores. Life and death coincide in his hand.
He is a living God and gives life, but only through the cross. Every moment of grace, every touch of God’s hand is a partaking in the Paschal mystery. The “day of the Lord” makes us tremble and makes us thrill.
Year 1, Week 27, Saturday East Doncaster, 1989
“I am going to sit in judgment on all the nations round.” Joel 4.12
Today’s reading speaks of judgment: “I am going to sit in judgment on all the nations round.” The day of judgment means bringing justice to this earth. It is a day of punishment on Egypt and Edom for having done harm to the people of God. It is a day of consolation for God’s People: “When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk .”
God acts in this world. God did not create the world and then ‘retire’ to heaven, in some deistic manner. The Lord’s Prayer reads, ‘Thy kingdom come’, ‘Thy will be done on earth’. The Lord of all is involved in the world he sustains. He intervenes. He forms the laws of nature but is not bound by them. He inspires and raises up new leaders. He is just and therefore eliminates the unjust. Good overwhelms evil.
As our God is, so must Christians be. They too must bring justice to bear. Their task is to eliminate injustice and to make society flow with milk and honey. When good prevails and evil is eliminated, the kingdom of God will have come among us: “the Lord shall make his home in Zion”.
Year 2, Week 13, Wednesday Glenroy 1976
“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. … Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:21, 23-24
They are strong words, of the prophet Amos. These very feasts were established by God on Sinai. The people performed them correctly and frequented them assiduously. Yet God says: “I hate and despise your feasts”.
We may rightly wonder, does God say ‘” hate and despise your Masses. I loathe your sacraments and your church-going!”, even though they are of his institution.
At the time of Amos there was grave inequality between rich and poor. That is why God says: “Let me have no more of the din of your chanting … but let justice flow like water”.
Is this why the young reject our Masses? Do they see our ceremonies as the outcome of our mutual love? Are they the prophets from God, like Amos?
The very sacrifices God ordained have become hateful. Why is this?
Where the Spirit is absent the sacrifices become hateful, which is what happened in Amos’ time. But also how could they not inevitably become hateful? Being of transitory value, they have in themselves the seeds of their own destruction, arising from the Spirit, yet not fully spiritual. The Spirit that originally formed them also makes them obsolete, for the Spirit builds up and pulls down until all become Spirit. Only where there is fullness of Spirit is there full purity of action.
Amos realizes this. He looks forward to another time, to the full flowing of the Spirit, like an unfailing stream. Then there will be no offerings, no oblation, but the fullness of sacrifice.
To be with Spirit, to be of Spirit: that is the perfection of sacrifice, ‘in spirit and in truth’.
Year 2, Week 13, Thursday Glenroy 1976
“Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” Amos 7.14-15
The reign of Jeroboam was the most successful in the whole history of Israel. The shrines of Bethel and Dan were flourishing, yet Amos comes and curses them all, the king, the nation and the priest.
Amos startles them. He has no prophetic background and comes from another kingdom. The only thing that justifies him, the only thing that could possibly justify him is the Spirit that has fallen upon him. “It was the Lord who took me from herding the flock”. “It was the Lord who said: ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel’”.
Our own day longs for a prophet like Amos. People want to hear a word that is authoritative, which will uproot and plant, build up and cast down. People need to hear the prophet exposing the faults of society and Church. We want to hear the truth and find our faith strengthened.
Where shall we find the new Amos?
Year 2, Week 13, Friday Burwood 1982
“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, … The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. … The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8.4, 7, 11
The words of Amos apply to our own day, for he lived at a time when the Northern Kingdom was economically very successful. Yet that success was a sham and was built upon rotten foundations.
Making money rather than engaging in worship, heaping riches at the expense of the poor: these sins are found in our own age. So too on our own age the words of condemnation are threatened. God promises disaster and lamentation to the Norther Kingdom. Will there be recession and depression in our day? Will there be worse still? “I will bring famine on the country, a famine not of bread, a drought not of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord”.
Those who have chosen Mammon must lie with it. In their hearts they will know they are condemned, but in their mind they will seek to reject the thought.
Amos announces the crime of the people: they have been unjust to man and unrighteous towards God; they have impoverished the poor and denied worship to the One who gave them the Promised Land.
Therefore, Amos announces the punishment. Firstly, universe will be shaken; the days will darken and the light will fail. Then society will collapse; feasts will be accompanied with weeping and bitterness will fill every day. Thirdly and worst of all, there will be silence. They will stagger from sea to sea, wandering from north to east, seeking the word of YHVH and failing to find it. They have been unjust to the poor; therefore, the natural order will collapse. They have been unjust towards God: therefore, God will be silent.
They may well seek the wisdom needed for preserving the Kingdom of Israel: God will not tell. God who spoke to his people will withhold his word. Without divine guidance they will perish.
Is not this prophecy of Amos also true for our time? The gross concern for success, for profit at the expense of poor nations; the refusal to allow the divine mind to form the human mind: these have brought unwisdom. Our society staggers.
Year 2, Week 14, Monday Glenroy 1976
“On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.” Hosea 2:16
The people of Israel had been affected by Canaan and its gods. They were forgetting their experience in the desert and started addressing God as ‘Baal’.
Hosea fights against this. He looks forward to a renewal of religion in Israel which will involve both a turning away from Baal and a deepening of the relationship with God. Turning away and deepening go together. God will be a husband to Israel, a loving spouse, no longer a God of armies and thunder and smoke.
We are in danger, in our own day, of taking on too much of the mentality of the modern world. There is a lot of humanism, a lot of worship of creation and man in his natural state. We too must turn away from that diluting of our religion. We seek the divine; beware lest we end up with the merely human.
There is no need to look to the past, no need to look to the heavens, no need to look even at images of Christ. We look at all who are of good will and, behind the outward appearances, sense the Spirit, and see the everlasting Christ and the eternal Father of all.
Israel thought that a magical relationship with the fertility god of the Canaanites, would be more productive than worshipping the storm God of Sinai. The prophet, by contrast, reveals how much closer, more enriching and mutual, is the bond between Israel and YHVH.
How much closer, ever closer, will the relationship with God become, indeed! For a time will come when the human creature, made eternal by the power of God, will say ‘I am’; when the human race will bow down in worship not only of the Word made flesh, but also of each human being made one with the Word Incarnate. The flesh as flesh, but flesh redeemed and therefore truly flesh, will receive the worship accorded to the Infinite. Humans will speak with the authority of God. God will speak in them. They will speak in God. There are no limits to closeness with the Transcendent.
A time will come, when human beings will no longer call their neighbour ‘Fellow’ but will call them, ‘My God’. No longer will they seek God in the skies, but will look and find God all around, in themselves and in their companions.
Hoppers Crossing, 1988
At the time of Hosea, the gods of Canaan were given the title ‘Baal’. It was customary, also, for a wife to address her husband as ‘My Baal’, ‘My Lord’. It implied a relationship that was indeed grand, but it was aloof also.
God, through the prophet Hosea, tells of his wish to draw his people to a relationship that was more intimate and equal, more affectionate and closer. No longer will his people call him ‘My Baal’, they will call him ‘My Husband’.
Jesus wishes that God be in us and we in God, through his body. This intimacy and equality are to surpass even the closeness of husband and wife. The identity of substance will be complete in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God and his creation will not be separate but enjoy a oneness of substance, as it were, and a communion of Persons.
Thus, we look forward to the closest possible union between ourselves and our God.
Year 2, Week 14, Tuesday Hoppers Crossing, 1988
“Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.… an artisan made it;it is not God.The calf of Samariashall be broken to pieces.” Hosea 8:5-6
During the period of the Kings, there was more than one temple in the Holy Land. Jerusalem did not yet have the outstanding position it would hold after the return from exile in Babylon. In the Northern Kingdom there was the great Temple at Bethel, the national Temple.
The people of Israel, had no graven image of God, in marked contrast to the surrounding nations who had many gods and many images of their many gods.
God exceeds any created thing. Not only must there be no images in wood or metal, there must be no images in our imagination. God transcends any idea that can be had of him. It is true that Jesus reveals the Father perfectly, but he is no graven image. It is Jesus raised by the Father who reveals the Father completely and is his perfect image.
Yet the people of Israel formed images of metal and wood. Therefore, the ‘calf of Samaria’ will be consumed, like all images, in the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Hoppers Crossing, 1988
“Though they offer choice sacrifices, though they eat flesh, the Lord does not accept them.” Hosea 8:13
Instead of the living God to whom all sacrifice is due, they loved the meat of sacrifice. They have turned away from the One who is life beyond meat, substance beyond flesh. To love meat is to find one’s body starved. To live in God is to find one’s flesh nourished. To be with God is to find the being of one’s being and to be of God is to be abiding despite decay.
The Lord takes no pleasure in that meat. The lover of God likewise takes no pleasure in that meat but the living One and so finds his own flesh made firm experiencing every pleasure. The living God takes delight in the one who draws life from him, and from that life comes joy indescribable, subtle, overwhelming, in the flesh made spirit.
Year 2, Week 14, Wednesday Glenroy 1976
“Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.” Hosea 10:1
Israel has come from the desert, destined to possess the promised land. They conquer it but corruption begins. With the goods, they also take up the idols of the land What began well ends in disaster.
The strength of faith has given the Christian world prime position among the nations, for they are, in the main, the wealthy nations. Yet they are becoming idolatrous. Altars are erected to idols as wealth is amassed beyond what is necessary. The accumulation is becoming sinful.
We cannot, in the face of poor countries, continue to live in our present affluence. God is not found there, but in greater poverty. Idolatry is a subtle thing, for it retains the outward forms, even when the Spirit is gone. The right words and gestures continue, but there is no substance. What began as promised land is turning into Gehenna.
“The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow upon their altars. They shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us.” Hosea 10:8
Jesus says these words to the women of Jerusalem as he carries his cross to Calvary. With that quote from Hosea he condemns the idolatry of those who would not recognize him.
The Northern Kingdom had raised altars to the Baals and the Astartes. Instead of the God of Israel they worshipped the gods of the Canaanites. Therefore, the very places they used as worship have now become their tombs. The shrines they had raised are now asked to fall on them, to cover their shame, to remove their suffering.
Jesus condemns his opponents for their idolatry. While they preserved the name of God and the outward show of religion, they did not revere him, for if they had worshipped the true God truly, they would have recognized his Christ. They are condemning themselves even as they lead him out for crucifixion.
There is no comfort in mouthing the name of God. Nor do the externals of worship prove much. True knowledge enables true worship of the true God.
East Doncaster, 1992
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
The prophet begins by speaking of his time and of our time too. The more prosperous the people have become the more they have turned to idolatry. ‘The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built’. So, in our time, the growth of prosperity in our country has coincided with the growth of materialism and religious indifference.
The prophet gives a warning: “Then they will say: ‘We have no king because we have not feared the Lord’.”(Ho 10:15) The same warning is given to our society as well. With religious indifference there will be a breakdown of the social order. Laws will be circumvented. Commitment will disappear. Marriage will break down. The stronger will rule, and their rule will be by fear.
Then the advice is given: ‘break up your fallow ground’. The fallow ground is the land that has not been ploughed and remains still virgin soil, often wild but bearing much promise. So too there is need in our Church to discover new ways, to break new ground, to engage in lateral thinking.
For this reason, I have begun this interest in Tantra. It is fallow ground as far as the Church is concerned. It provides the means of a new insight into the perennial gospel. Let us explore this new direction and see if the Lord will “rain salvation on us” as surely he will.
Year 2, Week 14, Thursday Glenroy 1976
“I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” Hosea 11:9
God’s whole intention is the good of his people. He has proved this by the tenderness of his care in calling Israel, in leading him through the desert, in feeding him and bringing him to the Promised Land. Yet this same God has to bring Ephraim to his senses. And so, though he recoils from it and he trembles at the thought, he brings about evil.
God’s whole intention is human good. But humans learn and change through suffering. In choosing to create evolving humanity he involves himself in a world where destruction is a necessary ingredient. God does not simply allow evil, he actually brings it about – but the final purpose is good. There is no other way. God, by foreknowledge and design, brings his Son to the cross, but the aim is his glorification as Lord and Christ. His purpose is not evil but good.
Hoppers Crossing 1988
“… it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms.” Hosea 11:3
From God we have come, to God we are destined.
From the very start he has loved us and at the very end he will receive us into his heart.
There can be no other place that satisfies us.
We were conceived in love and brought forth in love.
Nurtured and weaned and educated in love there can be no destiny which satisfies except to be constantly held in his arms, secure and eternally present there.
This is the highest joy for us and for him the outcome of his play of love.
Year 2, Week 14, Friday Glenroy 1976
“Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” In you the orphan finds compassion”. Hosea 14:3
The orphan becomes child of God through the Holy Spirit. The Son of God becomes an orphan through sin. We were orphans, for there was a time when the Holy Spirit did not move in us, but Jesus was always Son of God for the Holy Spirit never ceased to inspire him.
The Holy Spirit comes to us, not by our efforts, but by God’s compassion. When we are at a loss, then God can make us gain. God’s compassion is a healing, an active changing of our bodies and hearts.
He grants us his Spirit by which when we acknowledge our sin, by which we cease to depend on ourselves and await his Spirit. He gives us his Spirit powerfully when we try to make up for the harm we have done. He gives us his Spirit publicly when we acknowledge our sin before the Church. He gives us his Spirit most perfectly when we receive the sacrament of the altar.
Then we too become children of God and we stand next to Christ in equality: he the source, we the beneficiaries, but equal now in the gift. We are not fully moved, he is fully moved. We resist. He never resisted. A time was when he still had to be raised in the Spirit. A time will come when we are fully moved, when we shall all be one, he in us and we in him, all equal, standing before Him who is all in all.
“They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.” Hosea 14:7-8
The pattern is so constant: the people turn to idols, disaster strikes in punishment, hope is held out: “He shall bloom like the vine”.
The pattern is repeated in every age since grace and sin are of every time. We too have our idols, although they are nameless. Idolatry has become anonymous.
The hidden idol of our day is ‘mammon’. But “What has Ephraim to do with idols anymore?” There is no substance to this idol of mammon. Its promises are empty and cannot bring pleasure. “Assyria cannot save us”.
Hoppers Crossing 1988
“I will fall like dew on Israel.” Hosea 14:6-7
United to God with heart and mind and body, acknowledging God as the One who transcends the human condition, as the One from whom all come
and to whom all are destined, when falseness of heart disappears, then his blessings come upon the earth, falling gently from above like the dew, coming into mind and thought, watering without violence, refreshing quietly and fully, giving strength to every faculty, hope to the heart and energy to the limbs, bliss and every happiness.
We shall bloom like the lily and thrust out shoots like the poplar, beautiful as the olive and fragrant as the high mountains of Lebanon.
East Doncaster, 1992
“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.” Hosea 14:6
After expressing anger at the misdeeds of the people, the prophet now describes the healing that will come. He uses imagery taken from nature.
Our imagery is different for is taken from the Spirit and his effects in the flowering of mercy, in the great drama of the Church, the holiness of the saints, the courage of the martyrs, the schools of philosophy and theology, the works of art and humanity: these are the fruitfulness of the Church to whom the mercy of Above has been made known.
Year 2, Week 16, Monday Burwood 1986
“Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.“O my people, what have I done to you?In what have I wearied you? Answer me!For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery;… “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:2-4, 6-8
The court has assembled to hear a case between God and his People. Heaven and earth are called as witnesses.
God accuses his People of ingratitude. He has led them out of Egypt and through the desert into the land promised to Abraham. They have not done enough in return.
In reply the People claim exhaustion. They have offered him rams by the thousands and oil in torrents. Does he want their children also, even their first-born?
God replies that he does not want an external but an internal sacrifice, he requires not the sacrifice of animals or children but the sacrifice of mind and will and status, “to live justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” What counts is internalization so that they themselves become the sacrifice.
Likewise, it is not enough to celebrate Mass. Our minds must become eucharistic. Our very persons are to become bread for all, given for the life of the world. Our task is to live the eucharist so that we become the eucharist. The final condition of mankind will indeed be eucharistic. There will be no more celebration of eucharist in time but the state of being eucharist in eternity.
Year 2, Week 16, Monday Glenroy 1976
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
The people of Israel had spent forty years in the desert learning the will of God which was “to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with their God”. Yet their arrival in Canaan led them to the worship of Baal, with temple services and holocausts, libation and even the cruelest of sacrifices. The people were zealous about these and forgot the true will of God. They were careful about the works of religion and forgot the demands of justice.
Micah calls the People back to their first vocation. God demands not sacrifices and festivals and offerings, but justice, love, and humility.
Year 2, Week 16, Tuesday Glenroy 1976
“Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land;let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvellous things.” Micah 7:14-15
The exiles have returned to Jerusalem, but are force to live within its walls. The mighty nation of King David feels constricted and inhibited. They pray that God will give them governance over Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.
The Church too feels confined. The horizons to which Christians called are infinite, but they feel hemmed in by fear and ignorance. They pray that God will let them enjoy the freedom that is the goal of the children of God. Their destiny is to acquire the dimensions of Christ, the expanses of his knowledge and sensitivity, the depth of his experience and the strength of his saving will.
Truth is all around. Heaven is at their side. Their only confinement is their sin, voluntary and involuntary, committed and inherited, chosen and imposed. Who shall make them see the wonder of Christ’s resurrection in their own bodies. Then they shall pasture on the fields of the universe, and drink the waters of the world, filling all things, being filled with all things, till God is all in all.