A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Live in hope, die in despair

A cruel slap in the face.

A deep and unexpected stab in the heart.

A terrifying rebuff from eternity itself.

That is what today’s first reading (Hosea 6:3-6) may sound like, especially to those of us who find resonance in the words that begin this chapter:

In their affliction, they shall look for me:

How many times have we done the same? How many times, when life has taken a bad turn, have we sought help and comfort from the Lord?

"Come, let us return to the LORD,
For it is he who has rent, but he will heal us;
he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds."

Perhaps we too may sometimes blame God (wrongly, generally speaking) for the evil we suffer even as we express confidence in his mercy.

"He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
to live in his presence."

We wish that we could express confidence in the Lord so beautifully

"Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD... "

The hesitation in this expression is striking, as if they are tempering their confidence (let us know) with intellectual humility (let us strive to know the Lord) or realizing the effort required. (Older translations structure this part of the verse differently, but a number of well-regarded translations structure this sentence the same way as the Lectionary).

"...as certain as the dawn is his coming,
and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth."

Ah! Again, beautiful, beautiful words…

How eloquently they reach out to God for the warm breath of his mercy.

But God replies with a sigh of exasperation and what comes from the mouth of the Lord is cold justice.

What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.
For this reason I smote them through the prophets,
I slew them by the words of my mouth…

They looked to God for help and find death instead.

They lived in hope, but died in despair.

So it may seem, but, of course there is much more to this.

As human beings, struggling with our own troubles and striving to live as people of faith, we look at the words of today’s first reading and see ourselves.

We look at words, but God sees into the heart and none can hide from his gaze, as they themselves should have known.

His judgment shines forth like the light of day!

Their fair-sounding words could not conceal their faithlessness.

Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.

Even their request for help is presumptive and not only lacking in penitence, but actually blaming God!

Come, let us return to the LORD,
For it is he who has rent, but he will heal us.

Their hope was a false hope and their presumption the flip side of deadly despair.

They effectively slapped the face of God; the stab in the heart was their own; and their own feet walked them into the pit of despair.

It is not enough just to go through the motions or speak nice words of turning to God.

For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.

We must be penitent not just in word and ceremony, but in heart, deed, and attitude and remember that God’s forgiveness, healing, and mercy are his gift, not our right.

May our hope be true hope, founded on God's truth, God's grace and true penitence, so that we may live always the life of Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, be merciful to us sinners.

Fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.

(Psalm 50:14b-15)