June 8, 2008
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

First Reading: Hosea 6:3-9
Psalm 50
Second Reading:
Rom. 4:18-25
Gospel: Matt. 9:9-13

Theme: Choosing God Over Personal Agendas

My dear friends in Christ, today, I wish to follow the admonitions of Prophet Hosea to the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but with a little twist of exhortation. The personalities and messages of Hosea, Abraham and Matthew in today’s readings present us with scenes of negativity or doubt, positive attitude or hope and change. But first, a brief background of Hosea’s admonitions to the people of the Northern Kingdom, Israel.

The Prophet Hosea was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom of Israel – 700 to 750 BCE years before Jesus was born. Following pagan ways, the people of Israel made treaties with the Syrians against the Assyrians. They thought they could use their new alliance with Syria to conquer the Southern Hebrew Kingdom of Judah. Israel depended upon its might, but unfortunately, in the year 720 BCE, Israel was conquered and taken into slavery. When they realized their condition, they offered sacrifices to God to appease him, so that God could save or relieve them of their plight. With this background, Hosea declares the mind of God saying, “God desires steadfast love and mercy; not sacrifice and burnt offerings” [cf. Hosea 6:6].

Hosea’s attack on the attitude and behaviour of the leaders of the Northern Kingdom of Israel must remind us of our attitudes towards KNOWING and bonding intimately with God. His insights then parallel how we worship and relate to God and neighbours. Urging that we refrain from engaging in our own intrigues, Hosea stresses that we KNOW God – truly as a friend, for mere and insincere sacrifices and worships do not impress God. Hosea is implying that we do not commit ourselves to God with conditional clauses or pruning hooks; that we do not KNOW and worship God piously when we need him most, during rough and tough times or some affliction in order to gain his protection.

Let us recall 9/11! People ran to God for safety and security; they lit thousands of candles at the World Trade Centre (WTC); people filled Churches to pray, but soon forgot the Church and the pews from which they called upon God’s intervention, safety and security. Some of us fall out with God, Church, parish or the priest and we never come to worship in the parish. We may return to the Parish Office when we want a child baptized, for 1st Reconciliation, 1st Communion or Confirmation. We may return to the Parish Office when we want to wed in the Parish, when we want a loved one buried by the Church, or when we want a testimonial or a reference letter from the Parish for our child to be admitted into a Catholic School for Catholic Education. We may throw a “donation” to the priest or the Parish.

For such attitudes, Hosea admonishes us as he admonished the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In a similar admonition, Hosea cautions that if our reason for knowing God or coming to Church is limited to selfish desires, then, God is not impressed with lip service or worship; and our piety will be meaningless like the morning dew that soon evaporates with the rising of the sun. He would declare that, “God desires steadfast love and mercy, not mere sacrifice.” God desires that we practice faith in him; God desires that we live in his ways [Sing: “Happy are they who serve the Lord, and live in his ways”]. God is not interested in sacrifices we offer him as appeasement. Just as he reminded the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Hosea reminds us even now that trifle offerings do not make up for commitment to the faith. For us to choose God over personal agendas, we must remain “stewards” of God’s creation. Stewardship, for the late Archbishop Thomas Murphy, implies that we let go of our independence, our ego, our need to control and our desire to be “someone” and to hold a shivering God within our hands [and hearts and minds], and the shivering God, in turn, will hold us” to perfection.

For the Prophet Hosea, it is time we realized that we cannot buy off God. We must rather believe as did Abraham our Father in faith; that we remain right and united with the one true God. Trusting God then is not like a push button on a computer for an instant answer. Trusting in God is “Letting-go and letting God,” and choosing God over personal agendas involves honest commitment.

The tax collector, Matthew, when confronted with the opportunity to change his life – perhaps radically, chose the Lord over his comfortable zone. Upon hearing the voice of Jesus, Matthew pushed aside his table of avarice and selfishness – his table of cheating for wealth, and plunged himself unto the table of Love of God and neighbour. There was no hypocrisy about it! Now that is commitment! Today, the readings invite us also to hear Jesus’ call to change – to pull away from self-centeredness – for a better life. I thank you and encourage each and every one of us to continue to choose God’s righteousness. When we uphold God’s righteousness, we can, together with Hosea, claim the willingness [sing] “To the upright we will show the saving power of God” (CBWIII #139). As we partakers of this Eucharist, I commend you for choosing God over personal agendas!

Father John-Baptist Okai
Priest Moderator
St. Cecilia Parish, Regina SK Canada

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