Third Saturday of Lent

Readings: Hos 6: 1-6 / Ps 51: 3-4, 18-21b / Lk 18: 9-14

Hosea 6:1-6 contrasts God’s presence is "as certain as the dawn" with human love of God which is as "fleeting as a morning cloud."  While God’s love comes to us “like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth, " human love can be insubstantial and can burn off as quickly as “the morning dew”. In the Hosea passage God says “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice but the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This  passage offers a contrast, not between human and divine, but between two types of human devotion to God – one which goes up in a puff of smoke - like "burnt offerings" and  the other kind - which is productive, sustaining, and more like God’s love.  Hosea challenges the community to consider the difference.  Similar ideas about prayer, love and our relationship with God as well as contriteness are provided by Luke 18: 9-14 in the Parable of the Pharisee and tax collector and in David’s lament in Psalm 51: 3-4.

The prophet Hosea is writing at the end of an era.  He lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at a time of diminishing prosperity and military strength and shortly before its destruction. In 722 BCE, the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians, never to exist again and the ten tribes of Israel disappeared from history.  


What meaning does Hosea offer us today?  We know that difficult times could lie ahead for us, individually, for our country, and the world community. It is clear that many of the things that we have done in the past might just as well have been “burnt offerings.” Some of these actions have not nourished us and have left us weak.  The Lenten season offers a time to reflect.  We are challenged to choose a path that is more like God’s love – one that is dependable, nurturing, and productive.

Edward Guinan
Astronomy & Astrophysics