Summary: What is the end we are pursuing as a nation as we work our way out of this prison?

Tuesday of the 14th Week in Course 2020

Plague Year Homilies

The prophet Hosea saw more clearly than many of the other Israelite prophets that the many problems facing the breakaway kingdom of Israel boiled down to infidelity. The covenant that God had made with them in the desert hundreds of years earlier had been, and continued to be, a pact very much like the covenant of marriage. True marriage, whether sacramental or not, has three essential characteristics. They are unity, indissolubility and fidelity. Marriage is between one man and one woman. The notion that any other kind of union is more than a pretense is a modern error that is already beginning to rip the nuclear family to shreds. Sexual abuse is not marriage, either naturally or sacramentally.

A true marriage is indissoluble. It lasts until one of the partners to the union dies. It is true that Matthew’s Gospel clearly says “except in cases of porneia,” or invalidity. The Church has wisely written codes that clarify what are grounds for declaring a marriage invalid. I recall attending one many years ago in which both parties during the service showed signs of drunkenness. The marriage broke up a few years later. Were they properly disposed to enter into a lifelong commitment of fidelity? That would be a matter for further investigation.

And a true marriage is one in which both spouses are faithful to their covenant, as the old rite says “cleaving one to another,” not just sexually, but in a true interpersonal exchange. That is, we married folk know, not a 50-50 proposition. Each spouse has to give to the other one hundred percent of devotion and service. That’s why we call matrimony a sacrament of service.

So with that in mind, consider the prophecy of Hosea to the people of Israel. The keys to understanding the Word of God here are the sentences immediately before and after what we heard today: “Israel has spurned the good” and “Israel has forgotten his Maker.” The time was about 750 years before Christ. The Northern Kingdom was about 175 years old, and the economy was flourishing under Jeroboam II. But underneath, the moral fabric of the kingdom was simply rotten. The false worship of God was centered on the bull calf Jeroboam I erected in the false temple at Samaria when David and Solomon’s kingdom broke up. Cult prostitution was rampant; many of Hosea’s countrymen worshiped other gods. So the covenant of fidelity was violated every day, as the Scripture has it, on every hill and high place. The laws respecting human dignity and property were being violated constantly. So God complains that even if He wrote out the Ten Commandments ten thousand times, His people would just say “Huh?” Since they has repeatedly broken their marriage covenant with the Lord, He would send them into captivity, a slavery like what He had freed them from at the time of the exodus from Egypt. Did they, or for that matter we, think that God was a chump? That He would let them oppress the poor and destroy their infants in pagan sacrifice forever? No way.

Now at the time of Jesus, the religious climate of Israel was very different. Jesus, Son of God and son of man, was the manifestation of the covenant with Israel in a whole new way. Here we see Jesus casting out a demon that had made a man silent–perhaps for years. The speechless man spoke, probably thanking Jesus, and the crowds recognized the miracle and saw it as unique. But the religious leaders, the Pharisees, immediately attacked Jesus as they were always attacking Him. They accused Him of using hell-spawned power to rid the man of the demon. Now we know from the Gospels of Mark and Luke that Jesus actually responded to his accusers in two ways. First he asks the logical question how could Satan’s kingdom stand if his henchmen were fighting each other. Then he asks the real question: if I am using satanic power to cast out demons, by what power do your disciples cast them out? So Jesus is really asking the Pharisees if they and their coworkers are stupid or incompetent. And they didn’t have an answer.

Consider a practical application we might make from today’s Scriptures, in the midst of this pandemic that is producing a lifestyle very much like a prison regimen. What is the end we are pursuing as a nation as we work our way out of this prison? Do we go back to the life we knew before, ignoring the poor, murdering children before they are born, pretending that perversion is marriage, supporting the breakup of half of all marriages, voting for political candidates that respect neither life nor property? Or do we pursue God’s law and seek to do his will? That involves working together to create a culture of life and respect for all. For this we must daily pray.

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