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Other Sunday and Holy Day Readings


Hosea 6:1a, 3-6
Psalm 50:1, 8, 12-15
Romans 4:18-25
Matthew 9:9-13

Abbreviations: NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

The two Testaments reveal God's divine plan for humanity, and that is why we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: Piety in Daily Life and Right Worship
Today's liturgy reminds us of the virtues of faith, hope, and love that our Lord requires of His disciples. In the First Reading and in the Gospel, God's prophet Hosea and His supreme prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, are indicting the covenant people and her rulers for failing to demonstrate the true essence of worship. The reason God required them to offer sacrifices, burnt offerings, and the other rituals of worship was to demonstrate by their actions an inner conversion of heart and sincere faith.

Today's Responsorial Psalm is about the true significance of sacrifice and worship. God tells His people that He does not need the blood of bulls and goats offered in sacrifice. These animals were the expression of sacrifice and worship under the Sinai Covenant. They were only the outward symbols of true sacrifice in the self-offering of a humble and contrite heart. This humble and obedient self-giving is what God anticipated from every faithful member of the covenant family, offered up in worship and praise of the One True God. The Old Covenant sacrifices prefigured the sacrifice we bring to God's holy altar today. Jesus Christ is the true, unblemished Lamb of God to whom we join our lives in the sacrifice of the Eucharist.

The Second Reading and the Gospel give us two models of faith to follow: Abraham and Matthew the Apostle. Both men were servants of God who, in faith and trust, offered their lives as a living sacrifice. Today's readings should encourage us to examine our consciences and to ask ourselves whether our religious participation is only a duty and an outward expression of worship. Or, do we demonstrate our love for God in right worship through the repentance of sins, offering our lives as a living sacrifice, praising God for His goodness, glorifying Christ, and in bringing the Gospel of salvation and God's justice, love, and mercy to sinners?

The First Reading Hosea 6:1a, 3-6 ~ Striving to Know the Lord
1a In their affliction, people will say: 3 "Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day!  He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth." 4 What can I do with you, Ephraim?  What can I do with you, Judah? Your piety [hesed = covenant love] is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.  5 For this reason I smote them through the prophets, I slew them by the words of my mouth; 6 for it is love [hesed] that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts. [..] = IBHE, vol. III, page

The prophet Hosea lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. God called Hosea to his prophetic ministry during the last years of the reign of King Jeroboam II who ruled from 786-746 BC (Hos 1:1). God commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman (Hos 1:2-3). The adulteress affairs of his wife and neglect of her family symbolized the faithlessness of Israel's idolatry in following after pagan gods and in ruthlessly oppressing the poor and disadvantaged. Just as Hosea chastised his wife but could not give up his love for her, Yahweh chastised Israel through His prophets but could not renounce Israel, His betrothed, through the bond of the Sinai Covenant (Ez 16). This tradition of describing the relationship between Yahweh and Israel in the symbolic imagery of marriage also appears in the New Testament. St. Paul and St. John express this same imagery in the union between Christ and His Church (Eph 5:32; Rev 19:7; 21:2, CCC 1616).

In verse 1, the prophet reminds us that it is a symptom of the human condition to turn to help from a higher power and to implore divine aid in the midst of suffering.  In those times of affliction, the people of Israel were ready to repent and return to the Lord (verse 3).  However, through His prophet, God chastises the people of the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Judah) that genuine covenant love (hesed) should be constant and steadfast. However their hesed, covenant love, is not constant or steadfast and is as unstable as the morning dew or the wisp of a morning cloud that does not survive the heat of the day.  Verse 4 translates the Hebrew word hesed, as "piety" but as "love" in verse 6 (also in Hos 2:21).  Hesed refers to the bond of covenant love that unites a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage and God and Israel in the covenant union formed at Mt. Sinai. 

5 For this reason I smote them through the prophets, I slew them by the words of my mouth; 6 for it is love [hesed] that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.
It is because of their failure to love and to know God in the expression of right worship that He chastised them through His prophets.  The purpose of His temporal punishments is to bring the people, through their suffering, back to right worship and the knowledge of God. Verse 6 has an important impact on the Christian expression of right worship.  Jesus will quote verse 6 from Hosea in Matthew 9:13 (see the Gospel Reading) and in 12:7 to emphasize the teaching that God judges not to condemn but to save:  

In verse 6, God is not rejecting the rituals of worship that He established under the Law of the Sinai Covenant.  Instead, God's words through Hosea get to the heart of what is the true expression of religion.  The God-ordained rituals of sacrifice and worship are the necessary outward signs of what should be an internal condition of humility, faith, and trust in which the faithful will come to truly "know" the Lord in the context of covenant love. 

Responsorial Psalm 50:1, 8, 12-15 ~ Offer God a Sacrifice of Praise
The response is: "To the upright I will show the saving power of God."

1 God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting.  8 "Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, for your holocausts are before me always."
12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for mine are the world and its fullness.  13 Do I eat the flesh of strong bulls, or is the blood of goats my drink?"
14 "Offer to God praise as your sacrifice and fulfill your vows to the Most High; 15 then call upon me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me."

The psalm begins with God summoning the earth to witness His covenant lawsuit against Israel for her failure in offering right worship.  In verses 8 and 12-15, God explains what He requires from the faithful in exercising right worship.  In verse 12, He states that He does not reject their sacrifices and rituals of worship. It is not for the exercise of the rituals of worship that God rebukes the covenant people but for their neglect of the true meaning of what the rituals are meant to symbolize.  The rituals of worship should symbolize a life that consistently demonstrates love for God and our brothers and sisters in the human family.  The sacrifice God wants is the sacrifice of praise accompanied by genuine obedience to His commands.  The passage ends with a promise for those who practice right worship that the Lord will hear their petitions in times of distress and will come to their aid.   See a similar covenant lawsuit in Micah 6:1-8

The Second Reading Romans 4:18-25 ~ Strength in Faith
18 Abraham believed, hoping against hope, that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "Thus shall your descendants be."  19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body as already dead, for he was almost a hundred years old, and the dead womb of Sarah.  20 He did not doubt "God's promise in unbelief; rather, he was strengthened by faith and gave glory to God 21 and was fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to do.  22 That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.  23 But it was not for him alone that it was written that it was credited to him; 24 it was also for us, to whom it will be credited, 25 who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.

In Romans 4:1-25, St. Paul completes his argument that righteousness/justification comes neither from nature nor the old Law but through faith.  The faith that St. Paul is writing about is founded upon the redemptive death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection (verse 25).  These two events cannot be separated and are the two ways in which God manifests His justice and mercy to humanity. 

In verses 18-22, St. Paul praises Abraham's strength of faith, and he presents Abraham as the father of all believers.  Abraham, writes Paul, was not justified by works of the Law but by faith (Rom 4:1-8) to which Scripture testifies in Genesis 15:6 and in Psalm 32:1-2 and which Paul quotes in Romans 4:7-8.  Abraham put his trust in God's promise that he was to be the father of many descendants from many nations which seemed, from a human perspective, to be impossible to fulfill in an elderly couple who had no children (Gen 17:3-7; reaffirmed in 22:15-18).  Abraham's faith is a model for all Christians.  God fulfilled the promise made to Abraham that he would be the father of "many nations" in those of us who are children of the universal Church who believe that Christ died and arose from death for our sake (verses 22-25). Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatian Christians: And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise (Gal 3:29).

The Gospel of Matthew 9:9-13 ~ Jesus Calls St. Matthew and Rebukes the Pharisees
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.  He said to him, "Follow me."  And he got up and followed him.  10 While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.  11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  12 He heard this and said, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.  13 Go and learn the meaning of the words, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners."

St. Matthew, as was the duty of all tax collectors, was sitting at his customs post.  It was probably a tollbooth at which he collected fees on goods (especially barrels of salted fish) transported out of the tetrarchy of the Galilee to other parts of the provinces.  His name is the Greek form of the Hebrew name meaning "gift of God."  Like the other Apostles called by Jesus to "Follow me," St. Matthew, also known as Levi (Mk 2:13-14; Lk 5:27-28), leaves his profession and his comfortable life to follow Jesus.  Like Elisha in verse 10, Matthew makes his goodbye to his old life by giving a feast and publically announcing his decision to follow Jesus with his friends (see 1 Kng 19:21), exposing them to what could be a life-altering experience in sharing a meal with the Messiah and His disciples (verse 10).

Matthew 9:10-11 ~ While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.  11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
Since the Pharisees are observing the banquet, it may be that the Pharisees stationed themselves where they could see the arriving guests, or the banquet may have been held in an open courtyard.  The second scenario seems more likely since Jesus "heard" their criticism.
The Pharisees were strict observers of the Law, and they ranked tax collectors with sinners because tax collectors were suspected of overcharging the taxes collected from the common people for the hated Romans.  The tax officials were allowed to keep whatever they could collect above the required minimum due to the Romans.  It was a sin to take advantage of one's fellow covenant member, and their sin was regarded as theft.  Sinners were those who, because of their profession, life-style or actions, failed to meet the standards of righteousness under the Law.  St. Mark's addition "for there were many who followed him" (Mk 2:15) suggests that many of the other the tax collectors and sinners at the banquet were also either followers of Jesus or supporters.

The Pharisees refer to Jesus as "teacher" in verse 11 so as not to offend the disciples, but they were trying to diminish Jesus in the esteem of His followers.  Hearing their comments and knowing the condition of their hearts, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees who consider themselves to be above reproach in their obedience to the Law and in living righteous lives.  He explains His reason for eating with "sinners" by making a comparison between the sick and the healthy.  The sick need a physician to heal them physically just as the sinners need Jesus to heal them spiritually.  The righteous are already on the path to salvation.  In His rebuke, Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea in God's rebuke of the Israelites for the failure to practice right worship in Hosea 6:6 (from our First Reading) ~ For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocaust.   Jesus' point is that instead of only external performance in obedience to the Law, God prefers the inward quality of genuine humility, love, and contrition. This self-giving is the kind of personal sacrifice that is pleasing to God above the material sacrifice of whole burnt offerings.  Both Abraham of the Old Covenant and the Apostle Matthew of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus demonstrated this kind of genuine love in action for God in their willingness to sacrifice everything to follow the Lord, and they are role models for Christians in every generation.

Catechism References:
Hosea 6:1-6 (CCC 2787); 6:6 (CCC 589, 2100)
Romans 4:18-21 (CCC 723); 4:18 (CCC 146, 165, 1818); 4:20 (CCC 146); 4:25 (CCC 517, 519, 654, 977)
Matthew 9:12 (CCC 581); 9:13 (CCC 589, 2100)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014