12 JULY, 2012 THURSDY 14TH WEEK; HOSEA 11:4-9

WHEN ISRAEL WAS A CHILD I LOVED HIM, I LED HIM WITH BONDS OF LOVE.  As a novice I undertook a private project to read the whole of the Bible straight through. The task proved quite challenging. I remember falling asleep over the reading at places during the sessions after Vigils. I suspect that I skipped over some of the lengthy lists of names of various tribal members, but otherwise saw my way through the entire canonical writings of both testaments. I continue to believe this experience has proved beneficial to me in the sixty years that have passed since completing it.  In my reading the God who spoke to Moses amid the thunder and smoke of Mount Sinai was indeed holy and wise, but rather forbidding in His way of dealing with his chosen people. One impression I received from this first reading of the whole canon was that the Old Testament conveyed an impression of a more demanding and severe God than did the New Testament. Father who, Saint John says “so loved the world that he gave his beloved Son, not to judge the world, but so that all who believe in him might possess eternal life.” (3:16 )

However, it was far from clear to me how such love was compatible with the unyielding severity of the God Jesus encountered in the Garden of Gethsemane who did not yield to Jesus prayer to be spared the bitter chalice of the passion. And so for some years I lived with the tensions arising from such seemingly conflicting characteristics of the God whose love is so demanding. The God of the New Testament who created us in love and redeemed us in an act of much more selfless love, yet seemed at the same time to be no less harshly exacting than the God of the Torah. 

In the course of further readings, I have come to see how this tension was resolved by the trusting obedience of Jesus, not only in Gethsemane but still more decisively by his willing acceptance of the agony of the crucifixion. He continued to trust even when experiencing the darkness of seeming abandonment. The full resolution of the tension between love and a fearful and humiliating death was finally resolved in the resurrection. Through this passage from darkness to the light of eternal life Jesus created a fuller concept both Father and Son. 

We are reminded of these matters by today’s text from the prophet Hosea. For these same tensions and conflicting views of God were features already of the Hebrew bible. Less prominent but no less clearly, the God who gave the Torah to Moses amidst the fearful thunder and lightening was also the God of loving promises. Early on He assures our Father Abraham in solemn promises of an inheritance. Implicit in the promises is a loving concern that makes all true fathers provide for the future happiness of their sons. Later on, after the people of “God have inherited the land of promise, various prophets provided ongoing assurances that the Lord of all continued to protect and guide his people. The prophet Hosea depicts with a particularly tender image the paternal guidance and care shown by a loving Father. As we heard in the first of today’s texts: WHEN ISRAEL WAS A CHILD I LOVED HIM, I LED HIM WITH BONDS OF LOVE. And even though His love meets with cold neglect and disobedience, yet He responds, not with anger but greater tenderness: “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred, I will not give way to my blazing anger. . . . for I am God and not man”

This is the same God who gave his Son up to death that we might have eternal life with him. At this Eucharist Jesus so gives himself to us and for us that in this sacrifice we are able to offer a worthy thanksgiving to this Omnipotent God who is our loving Father.V      

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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