Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
The prophet Hosea prophesies to a nation in chaos. The northern kingdom of Israel has become prosperous and corrupt. Ruled by a succession of six Assyrian puppet-kings in just 26 years, the people have long since forgotten their duty to God. And b/c they have forgotten who and what they are, God will allow the Assyrian Empire to crush them. Hosea prophesies, “Their heart is false, now they pay for their guilt; God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars.” A people who lack gratitude, who lack a proper sense of religious duty have no use for altars or sacred pillars. What about a king to quell the chaos? Will the Lord send a king to ensure their safety? Hosea says, “Since they do not fear the Lord, what can the king do for them?” A king is only as good as the people's faith in God. No kingdom can replace the covenant. No king can replace the Lord. When a nation suffers the consequences of its collective sin, its failure to honor God, “it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain down justice upon you.”
Whatever measure of peace and prosperity we enjoy now or later we must see as gifts from God and God alone. Of course, there are natural mechanisms that work out a good national economy or ensure the end of wars and violence. But it is the Spirit of God that moves the hearts of men and women to seek out the common good and work toward just ends. It is God who pours out His enduring Love and seduces us to do better, to be better when we are tempted with self-serving means and unjust ends. When we receive His love, we are better, we do better and b/c we are so blessed, He deserves our gratitude. Not b/c He needs us to be thankful but b/c being thankful only increases our humility, making it possible for us to receive more and more of His good graces. A people who have turned their backs on God cannot make wise decisions, nor can they prosper, nor can they long survive as a people under His care. No politician or Supreme Court Justice or Pope can save a nation that refuses to acknowledge the source of its material and spiritual wealth. The disastrous consequences of this refusal aren't a punishment from God on the people; it's God allowing these people to be who they want to be: a tribe cut off from His blessings, a nation grown sick with ingratitude.
When a nation suffers the consequences of its collective sin, its failure to honor God, Hosea tells us that “it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain down justice upon you.”
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