Hosea 2.16-18,21-22; Psalm 144; Matthew 9.18-26
Hosea (called Osee in some older English Catholic Bibles) is one of the most accessible of the prophets. We hear readings from this book as the first lesson at mass each day of this week, but it is a worthwhile exercise to read through the whole of the book. Hosea is the first of the ‘minor’ prophets (so-called because their writings are short in length) gathered together in the Hebrew Bible as the Book of the Twelve.
Central to the prophecy is Hosea’s personal life: bluntly God directed the prophet [1.2] to ‘Go, marry a whore, and get children with a whore.’ Hosea’s marriage to Gomer [1.3] and their unpleasantly-named children: Jezreel, named after a city with a long and bloody history; Jezebel, King Ahab’s queen, had died there when she was thrown from a window
[II Kings 9.35-36]; Unloved; and Not-my-People dominate the first three chapters of Hosea’s prophecy. Gomer is taken to be symbolic of Israel, unfaithful (‘adulterous’) to God himself.
Throughout the spectacle of Hosea’s unhappy marriage, however, the prophet never loses hope. ‘I am going to lure her and lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart’ he declares of his wife. Hosea will behave towards Gomer as God does towards Israel. Israel’s disobedience isn’t the last word about this relationship, but only the penultimate. The last word belongs to God, who has pledged himself never to give up. [Genesis 9.12-17]