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July 10, 2018 - The Word of the Prophet and the Ministry of Jesus

Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

While little is known about Hosea, a good deal is known about Israel during the time in which he prophesied. It was a time that followed peaceful rule and preceded the fall of Israel to the Assyrians. It was a time in which kings were assassinated, corruption was rampant, economic disparities were great, the rich increased their abuses of the poor, and Israel’s relationships even with its allies were rocky. To make matters even worse, as the prophet tells us, the people of Israel had taken to creating and worshipping false gods. In all of this, the people of God are about as divided from God as they can be. Naming this, Hosea promises that God will remember their sins and will punish them. 

This is an important word for us to hear today. As people of God, we need to remember that God cares about how we live our collective life. It matters to God how we conduct our business (political and otherwise), what sorts of disparities we are willing to accept (economic and otherwise), how we who have resources treat those who do not, and how all of us treat our neighbors. And we need to remember that the temptation to produce idols that are so much easier to worship than this God who calls us to live well together is always there.  

The prophet most definitely makes important points. We need to hear them, and we need to heed them. And then we also need to hear and heed Jesus. 

In the text from Matthew, Jesus is out and about driving out demons and healing people with sicknesses of all sorts. And while the crowds who are witnessing his miracles are amazed, they are not followers of Jesus. They are spectators. And there is no telling whether they will ever become more than that. The fact that the Pharisees are also on the scene accusing Jesus of doing the work of darkness rather than the work of God only appears to reduce the chances that these amazed spectators will ever become real followers of Jesus.  

In other words, as Jesus went about his ministry he encountered a lot of people who heard his teaching and witnessed his healing and who were also still very lost. Just as Israel came up dreadfully short in Hosea’s day. Just as we surely do in ours.  

And what is Jesus’ response? At the sight of those crowds, Jesus was moved with pity. He saw that they were troubled, abandoned, lost. He did not punish them. He didn’t even admonish them. Instead, he had deep compassion for them. And he sent his disciples out among them to do the work of his ministry.  

Yes, our God cares about our sin. It matters very much to God how we live together in this world. So that we do not get stuck in that graceless story that consists only of our sin and God’s punishment, let’s remember Jesus and his message from the Father that God loves us and that what God wants more than anything from us is love—love for God, love for ourselves (despite our sin), and love for our neighbor and the stranger. 

"Gracious and ever-merciful Lord, may we follow you into the crowds and spread your very Good News by our words and our deeds. Amen.

- Sue Trollinger