The Book of Hosea lends itself well to this Jubilee of Mercy in which we find ourselves. Few things cause more anguish than an unfaithful spouse. This metaphor winds through the book, and the blend, as the Scripture scholar Carroll Stuhlmueller describes it, is “hope and agony.”
Catholics are familiar with the popular song “Hosea” which draws on the imagery of the first few verses here:
Thus says the Lord:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.
From there I will give her the vineyards she had,
and the valley of Achor as a door of hope.
For Americans, that valley might be equated with Pearl Harbor or the Alamo, a symbol of military defeat.
She shall respond as in the days of her youth,
when she came up from the land of Egypt.
On that day, says the LORD,
She shall call me “My husband,”
and never again “My baal.”
I will remove from her mouth the names of the Baals;
so that they shall no longer be invoked.
I will make a covenant for them on that day,
with the beasts of the field,
With the birds of the air,
and with the things that crawl on the ground.
The suggestion here is that even the natural environment will benefit from a reconciling renewal of people with God. This is where Gregory Norbet suggests that the end of the spiritual reunion is to “sleep secure with peace.”
Bow and sword and war
I will destroy from the land,
and I will let them take their rest in security.
And the image of marital unity:
I will espouse you to me forever:
I will espouse you to me in right and in justice,
in love and in mercy;
I will espouse you in fidelity,
and you shall know the LORD.
On that day I will respond, says the LORD;
I will respond to the heavens,
and they shall respond to the earth;
The earth shall respond to the grain, and wine, and oil,
and these shall respond to Jezreel.
I will sow (her) for myself in the land,
and I will have pity Lo-ruhama.
I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people,”
and he will say, “My God!”
This whole passage is unbelievably rich. A preacher attempting to touch on all the major points would likely do none of them justice. In re-reading this for posting, I was struck with the notion that human reconciliation with God would involve a response or reaction in turn from the universe, from the heavens and the planet Earth.
If used in its entirety, I would think a preacher could touch on some single point here. Lent seems a better landing place for this than Advent. But the message and metaphors are only exceeded by the message of the intimate love God has for us.