Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9 ; Ps 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16 ; Mt 10:7-15
The saints call us to holy forgetfulness. We are to remember only what God wants us to remember. We are not to be so attached to memories of the Lord’s deeds of old that we cannot receive his mercies that are new each morning. Rather, we are to be so detached from our memories and our desires that we only want what God wants. In today’s psalm we cry out to the Good Shepherd, and we ask him to hearken, listen, pay attention to us and to our needs. We want God to rouse his power and shine forth from his cherubim throne. With the psalm we pray, “once again”. We have expectation because we have had experience of the LORD and his mighty power to save us. Just as he has looked down from heaven and seen our plight in the past so too, we expect him to once again come to our assistance. We remember his deeds of old and this gives us hope for his kindness in our present need. However, there’s more to this psalm-prayer. We ask the LORD, who is not only the Good Shepherd, who is also the Vine Dresser: “Take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong.” In faith we are confident that what the LORD wants for us, his vine, his sheep, his child, is what we most need. We do not pray for difficulties or trials to leave us, rather, we pray to be made strong. The only thing we need to remember from the past is that the LORD takes care of us, and he knows better than we know what is our greatest need. Indeed, when our wants become our needs we are truly free. When our needs have become our wants then we are slaves to our own whims and desires. Then we do not trust in the LORD. The Prophet Hosea reminds Israel of the LORD and his heart that is overwhelmed with pity for his children. It is this same kind of urgency that moved the Apostles to travel and preach even when they were not initially welcomed and heard.
The LORD has holy forgetfulness. He remembers not our sins, and if he has forgotten them they no longer exist. For what the LORD does not keep in mind, he does not keep in existence. However, the LORD never forgets his beloved child, Israel. Out of Egypt, that place of slavery, the LORD called his son. The divine summons only increased as Israel of old went father and father away from the LORD. So, too, in our own day, the LORD summons the New Israel with ever-greater urgency. Although we preferred sacrificing to Baals and burning incense to idols, the LORD is on fire with passion for his beloved. Indeed, it was the LORD who taught Ephraim to walk; he took them into his arms; he drew them with human cords, with bands of love. Still the LORD beckons us, the LORD fosters us like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. Yet, though he stooped down to us in Christ, to feed us with his own body and blood, we did not remember that he was our healer, or redeemer. Indeed, the LORD God, the Holy One is present among us and he will not let the flames of destruction consume us. Indeed, the living flame of his love purifies and prepares our souls to enter into the transforming union. Indeed, we become divine not by nature but by participation in the divine nature of the fully human and fully divine Lord, Jesus Christ. It is this great mystery that the Prophet Hosea could only point toward with his words of tender intimacy. What is prophesied in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament; it is fulfilled far beyond any expectation.
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by sin and wickedness. The judgment of God fell upon those cities that denied the dignity of man and ignored the laws of nature. These will be more tolerated than any house or town that rejects the proclamation, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Those cities with the worst reputation in the Old Testament weigh less than dust in comparison with the cities in the New Testament that have no time for the Apostles or their preaching. The Natural Law and even the Sinai Covenant only point to the long awaited arrival of the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus prepared and empowered his apostles to proclaim the Kingdom by their teaching and in their miracles. Like Christ himself they are to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. All this is free and loving service; they give away without cost even as they have received without cost. As they journey about the countryside continuing the anointed ministry of the Lord Jesus they are to rely on him and on him alone. The Apostles are not to take any gold, silver or copper in their belts. The Lord himself will provide for them through the grateful recipients of the good news. However, these messengers of the Kingdom of God have no time to win friends and influence people. If they are not received and if the people reject them, they must shake the dust from their feet and move on to the next town. Rejection, not acceptance, motivates the apostolic mission. The Apostles have an even greater desire to spread the good news after they have been rejected. Such motivation comes from the spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. The Love of God will continue to spread; the Kingdom of God will not be stopped.