Wednesday of the 14th week
God’s Lost Sheep
In today’s first reading Hosea portrays a very bleak picture of the kingdom of Israel. He says the more luxurious the life of the people became, the more they fell away from their faith. The more affluence increased among them, the more altars and shrines they built to pagan gods. Hosea tried to warn them, but to no avail; in 732 BC, the kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians.
But God never gives up on his people. In our gospel reading we see Jesus choosing the twelve and telling them to recover “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. For the moment, he wanted them to confine their attention to their own people – they were his priority. Later, the gospel would be proclaimed through the apostles to all peoples.
Even though we are removed by 2000 years from the time of Jesus and by thousands of miles from the Holy Land, we are the sheep today. The apostles and all subsequent ministers of the gospel are but the instruments of God. It is his almighty power which has been responsible for the spread of the faith. And it is his grace which has opened our hearts to accept that faith.
By modern American standards we live in a luxurious, affluent culture. It’s hard to imagine what constituted luxury and affluence in 8th century BC. Israel – with no indoor plumbing, no air-conditioning, uncomfortable and dangerous means of transportation, limited communication. Whatever it was, it corrupted the people.
But we, in our day and age, live in a culture that is far more antithetical to God and to religious values than our ancient forbears. More than ever we need the power of God to protect us from the pitfalls of our society. We need to acknowledge that the gift we have received and our perseverance in that faith are both dependent on the almighty, loving power of God. He will never give up on us. We must never give up on him.
Today we commemorate the feast of Saint Benedict who died in 547 and who wrote the most famous monastic rule in history. He knew well the culture of his time, its underside as well as its merits. Consequently, his rule became such a viable way of life for so many in the sixth century that monasticism literally shaped the future of Europe.
Father Damian Towey, C.P.