13Jul 13 July. Friday, Week 14

1st Reading: Hosea (14:2-9)

A call to repentance and renewal

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all guilt; accept that which is good, and we will offer the fruit of our lips. 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.”

I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon. 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. I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me. Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 51)

R./: My mouth will declare your praise

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in your great compassion wipe out my offense.
Wash me thoroughly from my guilt
and cleanse me of my sin . (R./)

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow. (R./)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me out from your presence,
and do not take from me your Holy Spirit. (R./)

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (10:16-23)

Jesus promises his missionaries all the help they will need

Jesus said to his disciples,

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

BIBLE

From sorrow to joy

While the text does not explicitly describe Hosea in tears, his text is packed with such intense emotions that this highly charged prophet must have given vent to his feelings in that way. The gospel too, while it does not mention tears, implies them as brother hands brother over to death, and children “turn against parents and have them put to death.”

The prophet Hosea’s pure and lofty ideals for marriage would not permit him to divorce his wife, despite her repeated infidelities. The covenant model kept the prophet from compromising his ideals; he would not accept life as a jungle; it must be life with justice and peace. Hosea condemns the situation in which “There is no fidelity, no mercy.” Repentance must be sincere, as inferred in chapter 6, where the prophet concludes, “That is why I slew them by the words of my mouth.” But then he evokes God’s compassion, “I will heal their defection, I will love them freely; my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel..” Because Hosea’s patience bore this abundant fruit, the final editor of the book adds the advice, “Let the one who is wise understand these things; let the one who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, and in them the just shall walk.”

In their meeting, Jacob and Joseph realized that tears of grief and of hope can be turned into tears of joy, for as soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his elderly father’s neck and wept a long time in his arms. So too, when Jesus warns of family hostility and even of betrayal, he advised us to persevere with high hopes and grand ideals. We are not to fight betrayal with betrayal, but with complete trust in God’s ideals of forgiveness and fidelity, and “hold out till the end.” Along the way “you will be given what you are to say.. the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.” When this ideal of goodness extends through the entire world only then can humanity’s best hopes be realized, and the Kingdom of God will have come.


When society rejects faith

The gospel is realistic about the kind of reception that friends of Jesus are likely to get from the world when they bear witness. The reception will be predominantly hostile, and some of that hostility will come even from within their own families. Jesus assures them that they will not be alone when they have to face this hostile world. The Holy Spirit will be given to them as a resource and will inspire their witness.

It could be argued that society today is not as hostile to the faith as when Jesus sent the first disciples. Yet, we know that the values of the gospel are not always respected in the culture of today; many see those gospel values as a threat, especially a threat to what is called human freedom. We are just as much in need of the Holy Spirit today, as the first disciples were, if we are to bear witness to the Lord and all he stands for. We still need the Holy Spirit to inspire our witness to the Lord. The church is as dependant on the Holy Spirit today as it ever was. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is just as available to us today as he was in the earliest days of the church, because the Lord needs our witness today as much as he did then.


CANDLE

(Saint Henry of Bavaria)

Heinrich (972-1024), Duke of Bavaria, became king of Germany in 1002 and Holy Roman Emperor in 1014.
As ruler he was generous to the poor, founded schools, quelled rebellions and worked to establish a stable peace in Europe. He promoted missions, and established Bamberg, Germany as a center for missions to Slavic countries. He was canonized in 1146 by Pope Eugene III.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    Sheep among wolves

    On my desk I have an open missal with all the readings for each day of the year. It reminds me now of the old Mass. Do you remember? The missal on its stand was stationed at the right hand side of the altar, and from there, the priest read out the epistle of the day. After that came the great drama, that often left the congregation opened mouthed in fear, as the little altar boy lifted up this huge wooden contraption and carried it in a wobbly fashion down the steps, genuflecting and going back up the steps to the left hand side, where the serene priest, having bowed lowed to the altar, and unsighted about the drama unfolding behind him, would step across and read the gospel.

    That journey of the altar boy from right to left now seems to me to be an image of our journey through life, where we first hear the gospel and then carry it down into our lowly world and struggle to carry it without falling, and then we learn to bring it up to the gospel side and land it without catastrophe for a gospel and later a last gospel to be read.

    As a child I used to imitate the actions of the Mass at home, mumbling nonsense towards the fireplace, dressed in an old towel that had a hole in the middle and so could pass muster as a chasuble. My poor sister, Tricia, had to kneel behind me and ring a bell at odd intervals. She still keeps her eye on me all these years later, and rings a bell when I need to hear it.

    Now in my 70s, I find myself back where life began. I began life before that open book of the Latin missal and all my life I have lived with this word of the Lord. Now, as I live these later years, I rejoice to remember the days of my youth and the blessing that was given to me so young, to know instinctively somehow that the gospel of Jesus is the key to life. When you know something precious you never give it up.

    The advice of Jesus to any follower of his is very interesting. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. This tells us that life is going to a challenge, just like that poor altar boy struggling down the steps carrying a book and bookstand far too big for him. So the next advice is brilliant. Be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. Brilliant!

    Being harmless comes easy to many of us since we always want to be good and kind, and so we should. But Jesus faced many tricky and treacherous people in his life and so he tells us to learn wisdom, to be smart and to be sensitive to this world’s treacherous ways. Jesus is not advocating that we be deceitful, but that we be aware of the deceitfulness of others. The story of the paying of taxes to Caesar is a great example of such deviousness and now to handle it.

    The ways of the Lord are straight, we are told, and it is good to walk in them, even when that involves a tricky descent down altar steps and another ascent to the gospel side.

    Keep the book of the gospels open. We will need it every day.

    Brian Fahy

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