Hosea’s words suggest an attitude that is ready to embrace life-giving change: “We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” Like our ancient brothers and sisters, we also face the temptation of turning to the “work of our hands” for comfort and security. For many of us, our work becomes the most significant benchmark for valuing ourselves and our lives. In troubled economic times, we sometimes find that the trust we place in work and its rewards can be ephemeral. But with the destruction of our false ideals, we can perhaps begin to see the truth about ourselves and to experience anew the compassion of God. Other people who share our struggles with us may be instrumental in bringing about this change of heart, which brings life and hope to us.
In this Lenten season, we find comfort in Hosea’s record of God’s response: “I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.” His imagery of moisture, green leaves, tender blossoms, and juicy fruit coming forth in the midst of an arid land resonates with us here in the snow-covered Midwest as we wait for spring. Like the desert, our snow-covered world presents a lifeless vista that is waiting for the breath of God. Although we have a glimpse of this living breath each spring, in another sense our world seems to remain always in winter as we await the fulfillment of all things, including the promise of bodily resurrection and a world where death no longer dwells with us.
But while we wait for that fulfillment, we know that God has breathed His life into us, and through divine love the dust from which we are formed has become beloved. (As Father Greg Carlson, S.J., shared with us on Ash Wednesday, “God loves your dust.”) He invites us to dwell with Him and with one other in relationships transformed by His love. Mark’s gospel reminds that there are no other commandments greater than these two: loving God and loving our neighbor. Usually this means leaving behind our attachments to the work of our hands and embracing the work of God’s hands.
Like the scribe in Mark’s gospel, we may agree that these two commandments deserve our attention. That is a good start – a transformation that is really necessary if we are to be a part of God’s Kingdom. But living them out is another thing. The paths of the Lord may be straight, but sinners also stumble on the way. (Hos. 14:10) I need to hear the comforting words of Hosea when I stumble. Thanks be to God, whose grace and compassion make it possible for fruitfulness to come from our dust. (Hos. 14:9)
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook