This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church.
Reading 1, Hosea 6:1-6
1 Come, let us return to the Lord. He has rent us and he will heal us; he has struck us and he will bind up our wounds;
2 after two days he will revive us, on the third day he will raise us up and we shall live in his presence.
3 Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord; that he will come is as certain as the dawn. He will come to us like a shower, like the rain of springtime to the earth.
4 What am I to do with you, Ephraim? What am I to do with you, Judah? For your love is like morning mist, like the dew that quickly disappears.
5 This is why I have hacked them to pieces by means of the prophets, why I have killed them with words from my mouth, why my sentence will blaze forth like the dawn-
6 for faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.”
This passage was used in Scottish Paraphrases (1781), in which the sober 18th century diction combines with the Hebrew poetry to create a rare beauty:
Our hearts, if God we seek to know,
Shall know him, and rejoice;
His coming like the morn shall be,
Like morning songs his voice.
All translators and scholars of Hosea are touched by his message: God is hopelessly in love with his unfaithful people. Like any betrayed lover, however, God expresses anger, but not by violence. Rather he shames them by laying bare their deceits through the words of his prophets-“I have killed them with words from my mouth.” Hosea accuses his people of betraying God with the Baals, the fertility Gods of the region, who seemed irresistible to a farming people that depended on the fruitfulness of the land. That is why Hosea clothes the true God in images of
fertility: “he will come to us like a shower, like the rain of springtime to the earth.” The true God offers the gift of real fruitfulness. There may be a lesson here for those who want to confront the idols of our time and place: whatever is sought from idols is found more truly in the true God.
Gospel, Luke 18:9-14
9 He spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being upright and despised everyone else,
10 ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like everyone else, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.”
13 The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
14 This man, I tell you, went home again justified; the other did not. For everyone who raises himself up will be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.’
One of the great things about Jesus is his common sense. Often he tells the obvious truth that religious people have mystified. It’s clear that most people would dislike the Pharisee in spite of his real moral achievements. They would reckon he needed brought down a peg. So does God, Jesus tells us. God has no more liking for boastful self-righteousness than we do. On the other hand, we would probably have no mercy to spare for the tax-collector, who is a collaborator with the occupying power of Rome. He is scum, yet, as he acknowledges his own scumminess, as he is struck with shame at what he has made of his life, his sincerity is acknowledged by God. He goes home “justified,” that is, made just by God. As God shares our human distaste for self-righteousness, so we are asked to share the miracle of God’s mercy to the one who has no righteousness at all.