The prophet Hosea presents us with a dramatic dialogue between Israel and God. The situation is evocative of the one Jesus describes in his parable of the Prodigal Son.
The people of Israel have left the service of the Lord to seek satisfaction by following their own desires. They worship themselves in the form of handmade gods. They have put trust in the political and military might of Assyria. The result is misery. “You have collapsed through your guilt.” Hosea urges that, like the Prodigal, they admit their need and their powerlessness to overcome it, abandon their wayward course, and return to their true allegiance.
Hosea pictures the reception they would receive from God in terms that parallel the welcome the Father bestows on the Prodigal. There is no mention of sin or even forgiveness. Rather there is an unrestrained rush to pour out an exuberant love. “I will heal their defection. I will love them freely.” The Lord then gives voice to a rapturous dream for Israel’s future, expressed in terms of a blossoming, fruitful earth.
As we in our time contemplate the scene, aware of our own personal and communal sins, the responsorial psalm provides the perfect response. We confess our guilt and plead for healing, but above all we repeatedly declare God’s praise. Secure in knowing that God’s love for us is the same love that Hosea and Jesus describe so eloquently, we are enabled to face more confidently and serenely the human opposition depicted in the Gospel. Even if “hated by all,” we praise our God, who loves us with an unimaginable love.
- Sister Mary O’Brien is a member of the Passionist Sisters’ Community in Union City, NJ.