Bible Blog 102

The blog follows the catholic daily bible readings.

Reading 1, Hosea 14:2-10

2 Israel, come back to Yahweh your God your guilt was the cause of your downfall.

3 Provide yourself with words and come back to Yahweh. Say to him, ‘Take all guilt away and give us what is good, instead of bulls we will dedicate to you our lips.

4 Assyria cannot save us, we will not ride horses any more, or say, “Our God!” to our own handiwork, for you are the one in whom orphans find compassion.’

5 I shall cure them of their disloyalty, I shall love them with all my heart, for my anger has turned away from them.

6 I shall fall like dew on Israel, he will bloom like the lily and thrust out roots like the cedar of Lebanon;

7 he will put out new shoots, he will have the beauty of the olive tree and the fragrance of Lebanon.

8 They will come back to live in my shade; they will grow wheat again, they will make the vine flourish, their wine will be as famous as Lebanon’s.

9 What has Ephraim to do with idols any more when I hear him and watch over him? I am like an evergreen cypress, you owe your fruitfulness to me.

10 Let the wise understand these words, let the intelligent grasp their meaning, for Yahweh’s ways are straight and the upright will walk in them, but sinners will stumble.

Hosea

The book of Hosea represents one of the great religious discoveries: that human beings can conceive a God who is jealous and not violent, passionate and not punishing, just, yet always forgiving. The story told by the book is of a man who was able to invent this new vision of God, out of his own experience of intimate betrayal: he is married to a whore, who betrays him frequently, but is always welcomed back by him. This man makes his God say, “I am the Holy One in your midst and I have not come to destroy.” The holiness of this God is not diminished by his mercy. Hosea invents a new story about God, and a new language for telling it. God is married to his often faithless people, and his love is expressed in the imagery of tenderness and fruitfulness, which belongs to secular love songs. This picture of God as the cuckolded but passionately forgiving spouse has a pathos and indignity, only matched in religious thought by Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The language of today’s extract, which is the final chapter of the book, is full of the freshest pictures of growth and bloom, as well as containing the most startling summary of God’s project: “I shall cure them of their disloyalty; I shall love them with all my heart”.

 Gospel, Mark 12:28-34

28 One of the scribes who had listened to them debating appreciated that Jesus had given a good answer and put a further question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’

29 Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord,

30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.

31 The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’

32 The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true, that he is one and there is no other.

 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.’

34 Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him any more.

 The scribe’s question to Jesus is standard for sussing out a Rabbi. It asks whether there can be any distinction amongst the commands of God. Jesus’ answer comes from his tradition as well as his own faith in God: God first and foremost commands our love-for God and our neighbour. The love that God offers requires a response of love.  Anything less cannot satisfy the always forgiving, but always jealous, God; nor would it be of real importance to human beings, in whom only love can unify the whole personality (heart, soul, mind and strength) in the one allegiance. This love of God, (the greatest commandment) informs and corrects our love for our neighbour (The second commandment)

 The scribe interprets Jesus as making a distinction between the ritual and the moral requirements of the Torah: in line with the prophets Jesus regards the moral commandments as supreme.

 Nothing in the Christian narrative of salvation should be interpreted as displacing the great commands. On the contrary, the death and resurrection of Jesus should be interpreted as enabling and commanding the love of God and neighbour.

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