Friday, February 25, 2011

Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time B: Reflections, Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Eighth Sunday of the Year B Reflections- Fr. Michael U Udoekpo
Readings: Hos 2:16b, 17b, 21-22; Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 2 Cor 3:1b-6 and Mark 2:18-22

Groom’s Love, Christ’s Love

Today we celebrate the Love of God. In the pages of the Holy Scriptures from the Old to the New Testament this Love of God is expressed in different ways.  In the Old Testament God is always a metaphorical spouse of Israel (Isa 54:4-8; Jer 2:2).

For example in the first reading of today Prophet Hosea uses the imagery of unfaithful wife, Gomer to describe the unfaithfulness of the kings and the people of northern Israel of his time, in the 750s BC. Some were unfaithful to God. And some had also inflicted injustices on their neighbors, especially on their poor and weak fellow citizens.

For Hosea just as a loving and caring husband or partner would forgive  his or her unfaithful partner, God’s love for is quite if not more intense as well.  I was taking a ride a while ago with a young African American Lady attorney from DC to Baltimore area. One of the questions she put to me was “Father, what is the teaching of the Church if a wife or a husband cheats on his or her partner”? My answer was a long one. But the summary was that the Church teaches that such a cheating and unfaithful act is wrong no matter who does it, wife or husband. The church also teaches the need for repentance and forgiveness. I also wanted to know from her why upon all the questions in the world she picked that particular question. She told me she was once cheated upon by her husband, but she still loves him.

In fact, partners in history have also suffered pains and traumas  caused by unfaithfulness of their loved ones. It’s always a very painful and difficult thing to deal with. But many have also shared with me that the love they had had for them cannot be abandoned.

Similarly in Hosea, God is like a husband who has been offended by and unfaithful wife, Israel or vice versa. But this love is never shaken. He/she continues to love her or him. God loves us and “espouses us forever,” (Hos 2:16-22) as a groom to the bride.

Allegorically, this image of God as a loving bridegroom is seen in Christ Jesus who loves us and the Church. We read this in Matthew 22:1-14(the wedding feast), Matthew 25:1-13(the ten virgins) and the very popular one in Ephesians 5:22-32.
And Mark in today’s Gospel does the same. He adopts the spousal imagery of Christ to the life situation of his community when he says, “Can the wedding guest fast while the bridegroom is still with them” (Mark 2:18-22).

Like the presence of the groom at the wedding, the ministry of Jesus brings us joy and happiness, forgiveness and newness of life. It is metaphorical new wine and new garment, new evangelization, renewed preaching and renewed zeal for the Word of God.

 It is the good news of God’s victory over the power of Satan and darkness. It is a new covenant of love to everyone, including our enemies. Remember, Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors and with the Zacheaus  of his time. From the South He drank water from the Samaritan women from the North.  And taught universal charity in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In John “everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-20). And there is no greater love than that of Christ who laid down his life for us his friends (John 15:13).

He wants us to do the same with people with meet on the way, loving them, everyone as God, Israel’s Groom, has first loved us.  As St. Paul would put it today, Jesus, the new prophets and the Church’s Groom wants us, our lives to be a "Letter of Recommendation" to the world (2 Cor 3:1-6). Such that people; men, women and children could see our lives, words and deeds and be able to give glory to God.