Thus says the LORD:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the farther they went from me,
Sacrificing to the Baals
and burning incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.
My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.
– Hosea 11:1-4, 8e-9
This passage is so powerful! What is the Lord saying here?
First, we need to consider that God has chosen his people – at this time the people of Israel – to be a special group of people. He looks upon them as though they are a first-born son. He is not only their God, but also their Father. His love for them is so powerful and it’s His first desire to be a Father who teaches them everything and shows them how to live and how to find true joy. This is desire of every good father, so of course it’s the desire of the best Father.
The problem, though, is that the people of Israel have a tendency to act like a group of rebellious teenagers. They are rebellious to what their Father teaches them. They disobey his commands. They even try to act like they have other fathers – hence the mention of them sacrificing to the Baals. Their true Father will lead them to true joy and happiness, while their false fathers always lead to false happiness, a happiness that is only temporary. This is what the first part of the passage is all about. The Father’s people were enslaved in Egypt, and their good Father swooped in and rescued them (see: the Book of Exodus). He led them away from their place of slavery, yet they wanted to go back because they were rebellious children. They insisted on their own way instead of submitting to the way of their Father. He gave them heavenly food, yet they constantly complained that the food wasn’t good enough for them. The story of Israel is a story of a good Father constantly providing for his first-born son even while the first-born son seems to completely reject his Father.
Will the Father ever give up? NO! This is the second part of this passage. The part we skip in the reading (11:5-8d) talks about the consequences of sin – Israel is going to be led back into slavery – but this part we get is speaking about the Father’s faithfulness to his first-born son. He will not give up! His love is so powerful that he will always be fighting for his child to return to his Father. The thing is, though, that the choice must be the first-born son’s choice. The Father’s people are going to have to choose to reject their rebellion, they are going to have to sacrifice their love for their false fathers, if they want to return to their true Father. He’s not going to save them if they don’t want to be saved.
The same goes for us, the Father’s new first-born son. The Father has not stopped fighting for us – He’s even gone so far as to send his Son Jesus to take on our punishment. The Father has not stopped longing for us to reject our false fathers. Look at how much our true Father loves us – His love is so strong that he has given himself to us time and time again throughout history! He wants to show us true joy and happiness instead of the false and temporary happiness our false fathers show us. Yet the decision must be ours. If we are to be restored by the Father through Jesus Christ, we must cooperate in the redemption by sacrificing our love for our false fathers and returning with our full hearts to our true Father. Our Father is not going to give up on us, but the choice to cooperate with his grace must be ours. Will we return?
We’re preparing ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit in a new way at the celebration of Pentecost, the day we recall the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the disciples who were in one place together in Acts 2. There are so many ways we could prepare. This series is focusing on the gifts the Holy Spirit will provide for those who are prepared to receive them, which will allow us to live entirely for the Lord by prayer and action. For more information about this series, click here to find the original post.
We’ll continue our preparation with a look at the gift of piety (some call it reverence).
How does this gift help?
How do you view God? What is your relationship like? Is it merely a slave/Master relationship? If so – if you view God as nothing other than your Sovereign Master – then the gift of piety will be of great help for you. This gift makes us see in God not merely our Sovereign Master, but the best and most loving Father. This will fill our soul with confidence and love whenever we consider that we are children of such a good Father. We’ll be led to adore Him with holy joy, and the practice of our spiritual exercises (prayer, reading, attending Mass, etc) will become a fulfillment of a longing we have for our Father. We’ll be led to greater generosity in our relationship with God, always so happy to sacrifice for him and his glory. We’ll be much more open to receiving his plan for our lives.
What’s more, we’ll begin to love in a stronger way even those things and people who are closely associated with our Father. For example, we’ll love and venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of God and our spiritual Mother, since she best reflects the perfections of God. We’ll love the Angels and Saints who have gone before us, showing us the ways of holy perfection. We’ll love the Word of God, which reveals the loving plan of salvation God has for us. We’ll love the Church, the vessel by which Jesus continues his mission on earth. We’ll love the Pope, the visible representative of Jesus on earth. We’ll love all those who have authority over us, because they have been given that authority by our Father who loves us so much.
Who needs this gift?
As with the gift of Counsel, it’s clear to see everyone needs this gift. Without this gift, prayer becomes too burdensome and the commands of the Lord begin to appear far too severe. This gift allows us to actually enjoy living our lives for Jesus Christ. We all need it! Anyone who is striving to live a life of spiritual perfection needs this gift. It will also be helpful for those who regularly interact with people who do not appeal to them, for this gift will allow us to see everyone as God sees them, for we are all children of the good Father.
How do I prepare myself to receive the gift of Piety?
Someone who is well-prepared to receive the gift of Piety will have developed the habit of meditating on Sacred Scripture which reveals the goodness and paternal mercy of God. This person will also develop the habit of transforming ordinary daily actions into acts of prayer, doing these actions in order to please our Father in Heaven. Doing this will transform one’s entire life into a prayer, which is pretty neat.
Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in his service, and for his sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.
Scripture to read before listening:
Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:33-43)
Listen to Deacon Bryan’s sermon from Sunday, August 3rd. Check out some important readings from Mass:
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
Psalm Response (Ps. 145: 16):
The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.
This very unconventional song is a powerful expression of the Father’s strong and jealous desire for each individual soul which He has created and redeemed in the Blood of His Son.
Our response to this great love is expressed:
“I will return to my first love.”
20 minutes of an increasingly intense connection of the Heart of God with the human heart.
I will return to God. This is a video companion to the recent post: THE OPEN HEART OF OUR FATHER GOD.
“His father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran to him…” (Lk 15:20)
God’s incomprehensible love of penitent sinners*. Though the sinner has offended Him so grievously and so often, yet He reproaches him not, but forgives him everything, and restores him to his former rights and dignity of sonship.
– He re-clothes him with the robe of innocence, i.e. sanctifying grace (ROBE) (Lk 15:22).
– He adorns him again with the supernatural virtues befitting the state of divine sonship (RING) (Lk 15:22).
– He enables him to walk justly before God (SHOES) (Lk 15:22).
– He prepares a feast for the converted sinner, giving him the Lamb of God, for the nourishment of his soul, in Holy Communion (FATTENED CALF) (Lk 15:23).
God alone can love this in this way, and to us this sort of love is inconceivable. Our Lord portrays this narrow-mindedness of ours in the conclusion of the parable. The elder son cannot understand his father’s joy; he murmurs at it, and refuses to take part in it; and even professes to believe that his father prefers the returned prodigal to himself, the faithful, obedient and industrious son. By this behavior of the elder son our Lord signifies the jealousy of the Pharisees, who considered themselves to be just, and murmured at the deep interest Jesus took in sinners. By the father’s answer in the parable our Lord shows how very unjustifiable any such jealousy would be. The just man ought to think of the great happiness which he has had of being always in the love and grace of God: and if he will try to realize what the infinite love of God is for every soul which He has made, he will rejoice with God as often as a soul which had been lost is found or saved. As the angels rejoice (Lk 15:10) over the return of the prodigal, so ought we to rejoice over the conversion of sinners!
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*Thanks to F. Knecht for his sublime work from which this post is drawn. None of this post is original. Its entirety is drawn from “A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture” by Frederick Justus Knecht, which is currently out of print.