These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Thus says the LORD: I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:21-22)
We are now in the Summer of the Prophets . . . today we begin the reading of the book of the Prophet Hosea. Hosea is probably the most erotic of all the prophets. The “prophetic actions” that God requires of the prophet are beyond anything that other prophets are asked to do.
When the LORD began to speak with Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: Go, get for yourself a woman of prostitution and children of prostitution, for the land prostitutes itself, turning away from the LORD. (Hosea 1:2)
The prophet obeys and in the process allows his own heart to be broken. Of course, the lectionary-makers in Rome omit all the essential passages. I always recommend using your Bible to check out the verses that are omitted. Sometimes you can find some real surprises!
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
Through the wonderful Colombian family that has adopted me, I have a very large extended family. One of my adopted nieces is Lina. She and her husband are both nurses. They live and work in Venice, Italy Northern Italy was the first major epicenter of the coronavirus outside of China. I remember a video message that she sent to the family in February. She had just finished her shift at work and was exhausted. Her ward had been converted to a Covid-19 ward. She just wanted to warn us, her family members, about the dangers of the virus. The stress and exhaustion were evident in her voice. That has been the experience of health care workers throughout the world. Maybe today’s gospel is for them, for they have labored and are burdened.
The photo today is the Great East Window of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville, NC.
Thus says the LORD: On that day I will raise up the fallen hut of David; I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. (Amos 9:11)
“The fallen hut of David” says it all . . . Israel has fallen on very bad times. But the prophet Amos holds out hope. And perhaps in the middle of this pandemic, when national pride has certainly taken a hit, we can look beyond the limits of nationalism and “America First!” and begin to see what God has in store for all humanity. This Lord who “speaks of peace to his people.”
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people. I will hear what God proclaims; the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land.R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people. Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people. (Psalm 85:9ab & 10, 11-12)
Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:26-29)
Saint Thomas may have wanted proof of the pudding in this classic scene from the Fourth Gospel, but nowhere in the passage does it say that Thomas touched the Risen Lord. Even though the Lord says, “Go ahead, put your finger here, put your hand in my side,” but Thomas doesn’t do it. And on top of everything, the Lord also said, “Don’t be unbelieving, but believe.” And it’s that last part that Thomas does when he gives us the highest confession of Jesus in all the Scriptures: My Lord and my God!
To Amos, Amaziah said: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now hear the word of the LORD!” (Amos 7:12-16)
Retreats are nice, having a mountain view is lovely, a walk in nature is very relaxing, watching the waves break on the shore is captivating. But like the prophet Amos, when God calls us . . . it’s usually in the middle of everyday life: I was a shepherd and the Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people.” Then Amos lowered the boom: “Now, hear the word of the Lord!”
"I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the LORD, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; Your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream." (Amos 5:21-24)
I remember my homiletics professor in seminary complaining about political parties using religion in their campaigns. He said, “Whenever politics gets religion, the poor always suffer.” The prophet Amos had a similar point of view. It wasn’t that ancient Israel wasn’t religious, they were: lots of religious feasts, sacred music and oodles of sacrifices. What was missing was the one thing that God wanted: JUSTICE.
R. Lead me in your justice, Lord. (Psalm 5)
The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police ignited massive demonstrations throughout the world. The cry for justice is ancient and very biblical. Today’s psalm reminds us that to enter God’s house, to offer God worship, we need to be on the path to justice. It’s what Pope Saint Paul VI said before the United Nations:
If you want peace, then work for justice.
If we don’t work for justice, then we can never worship God as God desires.