Monday, July 8, 2024

Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hosea 2:16.17c.18.21-22; Ps 145:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26

Our Gospel today is Saint Matthew’s version of events first written about in Mark’s Gospel. This should sound familiar because Mark’s version of these things was our Gospel reading for the Sunday before last.

Our understanding of today’s Gospel should be shaped by our first reading with which the Church pairs it. Our first reading today is from the Book of the Prophet Hosea. Before getting to our passage for today, a little background is useful.

As is the case with the prophets, both major and minor (Hosea is a minor prophet), Hosea was commissioned to call Israel back to fidelity to her covenant with God. One way God commanded Hosea to do this was through his marriage to a woman named Gomer.

Gomer was a practitioner of “the world’s oldest profession.” In other words, she was a prostitute. Nonetheless, God called his prophet to marry this unreformed harlot. Not only did they marry but they had children together. Despite this, Gomer still plied her trade.

What we have, then, is a pretty ham-fisted allegory: Hosea is God and Gomer is Israel. While God remains faithful to Israel, his beloved, Israel plays the harlot, chasing after other gods. One of the many things John Calvin was right about is that “the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.”1

The truth of Calvin’s assertion is not only verified in the exploits of ancient Israel but also through the history of the Church. One of the four “marks” of the Church is that she is holy. Just before saying the Prayer Over the Gifts, the priest says to the assembly- “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.” To which we respond: “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church.”2 The Church is his, meaning Christ’s.

In answer to the first question of an interview he gave at the beginning of his pontificate, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?,” Pope Francis said, “I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”3 The Church is holy because she is the Bride of a Husband who is indefatigably faithful, loving, and forgiving: Jesus Christ. The Church is holy because it is Christ’s, not because you or I, or even the Pope, belong to it.

Hosea and Gomer, by Barry Moser, used under the rules of Creative Common License

Like Gomer, like ancient Israel, Christ’s Bride is not always faithful. This is why the Church earned the patristic moniker casta meretrix- chaste whore.4This points to an inseparable union of the human and the divine that constitutes the Church. At least for now, the Church is a union between sinful, unfaithful, idol-chasing people, and her holy and wholly faithful Lord.

What makes our reading from Hosea so beautiful is that it tells us of God’s tender fidelity not just despite our individual and collective infidelity but, like Hosea, because of it. This suggests that great line from the Exsultet, sung at the Easter Vigil:
O happy fault
    that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!5
Or this from Preface III of the Sundays in Ordinary Time:
For we know it belongs to your boundless glory, that you came to the aid of mortal beings with your divinity and even fashioned for us a remedy out of mortality itself, that the cause of our downfall might become the means of our salvation, through Christ our Lord6
In light of this perhaps we should also understand today’s Gospel as something of an allegory. The Church is the woman with the hemorrhages who Jesus heals and makes whole. The Church is also the community of those who, through the mystery of Baptism, have died, been buried, and risen with Christ to new life.

Indeed, as we sang in the Responsory, the Lord is “gracious and merciful.”7 As Christians, as members of Christ’s Body (through the Eucharist, He becomes one flesh with his Church), let us recommit, with God’s help, to never again say, “My baal.”8 Let us be ever mindful that, in the end, only those who, forsaking all other gods, say to Christ “My husband” may enter the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

1 John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. I.11.8.
2 Roman Missal, The Order of Mass, The Liturgy of the Eucharist, sec. 29.
3 Fr. Anthony Spadero. “Interview with Pope Francis.”
4 See Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Casta Meretrix,” in Explorations in Theology, vol. 2, Spouse of the Word, trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 193–288..
5 Roman Missal, Sunday of the Resurrection, The Easter Vigil, The Easter Proclamation, sec. 19.
6 Roman Missal, The Order of the Mass, Preface III of the Sundays in Ordinary Time, sec. 54.
7 Psalm 145:8.
8 Hosea 2:18.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I also marvel at the fact that Hebrew allows for two different words for husband: ishi and ba'al. I think it adds another interesting layer on how Israel as bride should look at the Lord.


Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: Hosea 2:16.17c.18.21-22; Ps 145:2-9; Matthew 9:18-26 Our Gospel today is Saint Matthew’s version of events first written about ...