When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.
O shepherd of Israel, listen.
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power, o Lord,
O Lord, come to our help . (R./)
Once again, O Lord of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see:
Visit this vine and protect it
the vine your right hand has planted. (R./)
Jesus said, "As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
In a tender verse from Hosea, God declares a relationship with Israel as loving parents speak of their relationship with their child, indeed as a mother would cherish the child she bore. 'I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in my arms… I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek; stooping down to him I gave him food.' Yet, in spite of such tender love, Israel turned away from God and went after other gods. Jesus is the fullest revelation possible in a human life of this tender love of God. He too experienced the turning away of people from this love, their refusal to respond to it in any meaningful way.
When Jesus sends out his disciples he warns them to expect the same. They are to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand, the reign of God's life-giving love, but they will encounter those who will not welcome them and will not listen to what they have to say. This negative response is not to deter them from their mission of proclaiming God's loving presence by what they say and do. It certainly did not deter Jesus. When he suffered the ultimate rejection on the cross, he proclaimed the same good news as risen Lord to those who had turned away from him and rejected him. We are to reveal the loving presence of God, regardless of how we are received by others.
The ministry of the Twelve is not confined to preaching, for they are also told to cure the sick, heal the leper, and cast out demons. What they have freely received from Jesus, they must freely pass on to others, in a complete sharing of gifts and talents. The true meaning of the reign of God is brought out in the generous relationships of daily life. Further illustration of what our God truly wants of us comes from Hosea, who underlines the quality of compassion, even to heroic proportions.
There is a story about a tiny remnant of Jews who survived in hiding in Nazi Germany during World War II. In their hiding-place, one of them said, "We must pray to God." Another answered, "If we pray, God will find out that there are still a few Jews left in Germany?" A third added, "It is foolish to pray, for how can God be present in this kind of world?" This was less a question to be answered than a cry of desperation, but the rabbi answered, "It may be foolish to pray, but it is still more foolish not to pray."
The story of God's boundless mercy is retold by the prophet Hosea who imagines God saying: "I drew them with cords of love, like a mother raising an infant to her cheeks. But though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer." The biblical doctrine of a loving, divine providence is captured in those invisible "bands of love." In richly anthropomorphic language, God cries out in agonies of love: "My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger,.. For I am God, not man, the Holy One present among you." This compassion surpasses all human boundaries in its kindness and understanding, in its forgiveness and the renewal of life's good relationships.