Breaking Open the Word: Hosea 2

Photo by Rennett Stowe, accessed  here

Photo by Rennett Stowe, accessed here

Sunday, February 24th, 2019 - Hosea 2

               Today we continued our Scriptural theme study on the Divine Bridegroom with Hosea chapter 2. In light of the current clergy abuse crisis, one Sister quickly saw the connection between Israel’s infidelity and the Church’s. How it must grieve our Lord’s Heart to see His Bride in such a state!  Sin wounds the union between Christ and the Church to such a degree that it is almost like a spiritual “divorce”: “She is not my wife, and I am not her husband.”  (Hos. 2:4)

Yet this is not the end; the Divine Bridegroom continually calls His Bride to repentance, even if this conversion must come through great suffering. In fact, it is precisely in the situation of greatest desolation, “hitting rock bottom,” so to speak, that the sinner often reaches a turning point. Hosea describes this beautifully in 2:17: “In the valley of Achor [trouble] is the door of hope.” As Christians and as Passionists, this reality has an even deeper meaning for us, since it is through the agony of the Cross that Christ saved us and entered into the glory of the Resurrection.

Several other Sisters were struck by the nature of the bride’s repentance in this passage. She doesn’t say, “I am sorry for hurting my Spouse” or even “I see my ingratitude.” Rather, her contrition is of the most self-serving sort: “I will go back to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now.” (Hos. 2:9) But the Lord is not deterred by this – in fact, He does great things with this tiny, imperfect act of repentance. As soon as the bride makes the slightest move back towards Him, the stormy language of the prophecy melts into tender and loving words: “So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart.” (Hos. 2:16) What a reassuring demonstration of God’s mercy! He does not wait for us to be perfect before He will receive us back; instead, His mercy makes up for the many imperfections in our contrition. Seeing this mercy, we are led to a deeper repentance and love for Him, to the point of re-affirming our spiritual “marriage vows”: “I will say . . . ‘You are my people,’ and he shall say, ‘My God!’” (Hos. 2:25)

A final reflection on this beautiful text came from verse 18: “On that day, says the Lord, she shall call me ‘My husband,’ and never again ‘my baal.’” The term “baal” has a double meaning: in one sense it refers to a false god, but in another sense it is a reverential term a wife might use for her husband (literally, “my lord”). By refusing to let His bride use this term for Him, God is indicating His superiority over idols and His tenderness – He will not “lord it over” the bride, but rather be a loving Spouse to her. Furthermore, a Sister commented that this passage could be a reminder not to compare God with our own “idols.” The “baals” of our sins might afford us some worldly pleasure, but when we turn to the Lord the benefits are of an entirely different magnitude. He is not an overlord granting gifts to a faithful slave, but rather a Husband giving His entire self to His beloved. And if we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be given [us] besides!” (Luke 12:31) It is only when we prize the gifts above the Giver that He takes them away; as one Sister commented, “God is a generous lover – but He is also a jealous one!”

It’s wonderful to have you with us as we explore the beautiful truth, revealed in the Scriptures, of God’s spousal love for humanity. Join us next week as we study the first 4 chapters of the Divine Bridegroom’s great canticle of love, the Song of Songs!