The Book of the Prophet Hosea is about a marital infidelity.
The husband and wife that have suffered this infidelity are God and Israel. The prophet Hosea likens the relationship of God and Israel to that of a husband and wife and he testifies that the wife, Israel, has been unfaithful to her spouse. How so? Idolatry.
How has idolatry disrupted the relationship of God and Israel? The disruption can be likened to the effect of infidelity in the marriage.
In our culture, infidelity is considered to be justification for a couple to divorce. Few marriages will survive infidelity. There is little hope of reconciliation, and even if forgiveness is offered, few marriages in which infidelity has separated the spouses will endure.
Infidelity ends marriages. Not so for the God of Israel and his spouse, Israel.
God’s passion for his spouse has only increased as a result of the infidelity and though Israel has separated herself from her spouse, what God wants in to be re-united with his beloved.
One of the peculiar revelations of the God of the Bible is that God remains willing to love us even though his love is undeserved, unappreciated, and often times not reciprocated.
The relationship of God to Israel is not ended with the revelation of Christ, but is instead, transformed. Christ comes as God the Bridegroom “in the flesh” and in his love for Israel, manifested in gift of his own divine life on the cross, transforms Israel into the reality we know as the Church.
In this way, God and Israel, Christ and his Church, the rifts of infidelity that are opened up by our idolatry are closed, and a broken marriage is restored. It is possibility that the prophet Hosea foresees in this morning’s scripture, and that possibility that Hosea foresaw, becomes real for us in the Mass.
The Mass is not just a time-honored cultural custom or the community affirming its values in songs and stories. Instead, the Mass is our participation in the reconciliation of God and Israel, and the marital union of Christ and his Church- bridegroom to bride, husband to wife, heaven and earth, God and humanity. It is this communion that is the meaning of the Holy Communion that in the Blessed Sacrament we beg the Lord to receive.
The wedding vow of this mystical marriage is expressed in the great commandments to which Christ testifies. The Church as Christ’s spouse gives herself over with a love that is meant to be total and complete. And further, the Church as Christ’s spouse will love what Christ loves.
This is the meaning of Christ’s call to love with “one’s whole soul, mind and strength” it is to give oneself over to Christ in the manner that in marriage one’s surrenders the totality of oneself to one’s beloved, without equivocation, without reservation, and with a fidelity that is absolute.
And to love our neighbor, the Church does this because in doing so we love what Christ loves. We do not love our neighbor because it is easy or because our neighbor is likable, but because in the marriage of Christ and the Church, the Church loves and cherishes what Christ loves and cherishes. All this is disrupted if we cling to idols, rather than to Christ our Lord.
Our desire for things like wealth, pleasure, power and honors; or our rapacious need to be right, to advance our causes and ideologies, or to accept the way of Christ only on our own terms- all these idols, poison our relationship with the Lord with the same venom that infidelity poisons a marriage. Lent demands we abandon these idols. Have we?