Hosea 14:2-10; Matthew 10:16-23
Today’s readings are puzzling. On the one hand, Matthew confronts us with warnings that preaching the Christian gospel will put us at risk. On the other, the reading from Hosea invites repentance. At first glance, these readings appear to have little in common. Indeed, on one level, they are taken from contexts that are completely alien to each other. The selection from Hosea is set in the time of the exile and holds out the promise that God will forgive repentant Israel and bless her anew. The selection from Matthew reflects the early Christian community’s sense of being rejected by members of its own family, even being “flogged” in what had been recently their own communities.
Upon closer examination, however, some interesting themes emerge. Matthew’s world is a world divided, brother against brother and parent against child. In a way, the circumstances in which the disciples find themselves preaching the gospel is exactly opposite those encountered by Hosea. He describes an Israel fully cognizant of the results of their rebellion against God. The things they had trusted have failed them. The Assyrians will not help them. They have “collapsed” under the weight of their sinfulness. They have even recognized their idolatry and are willing to abandon worshiping the “work of [their] hands.” Yet it is precisely because they have fallen so low that God can scoop them up and restore them. This is not the case for those to whom the disciples in Matthew’s gospel are preaching; they cannot hear and they do not listen. When encountering these, Jesus counsels, trust in the Spirit and “flee.”
And so what of us? I think today’s readings challenge us to reflect upon where we currently lodge. Do we inhabit the penitent community described by Hosea or do we inhabit the community that is hostile to the gospel described by Matthew. Are our lives marked by division and lack of forgiveness? Are we alienated from family? Are we over-confident in the “work of our hands,” our portfolios, our stuff? Hosea’s community finally recognized their sin and repented. God welcomed them back. If we wish to really hear the Gospel, let us strive to be like them.
By John O'Keefe