The Readings today show us what God wants for us and how we are responsible for what happens next. Hosea shows us what God did to Israel. He loved him and call him out of slavery. He taught him how to walk and healed him. God humbled himself when he bent down to them and fed them. Then God says this: But they have refused to return to me. With this God says 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.
Jesus tells his Apostles 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. Jesus also tells them 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. God wants to give us peace, but if we reject this offer of peace, then he respects that and leaves.
Many people have a mistaken idea of God being a stern judge waiting for us to make a mistake to punish us. But the Readings show us that is not the case. God loves us so much, he bends down to feed us. In fact, with the coming of Jesus, God not only bent down to feed us, he became flesh and dwells among us. God wants to be involved in our lives, not to lord it over us, but to lead us to fullness of life, to give us peace. Whether we receive it or not depends on us.
One may ask: If God wants this for us, why are believers persecuted and like the martyrs we celebrate today, killed for their faith? How can we say God wants to give us peace when his followers suffer a lot? St Teresa of Avila comments that God has few friends because of the way he treats them. St Teresa’s humor shows us how we relate to God. When we come before him, we come in awe of him, but we can speak to him as a friend, in fact, as a Father who loves us dearly.
But St Teresa is right, from a human perspective, God treats his friends badly. Just look at how he treated his only Begotten Son. But we must remember that everything happens to us because God loves us. I have repeatedly said sufferings are not from God but God uses them for our good.
Romans 8:35-39 tells us Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or persecution? Or the sword? But in all these things we overcome, because of him that loves us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Whatever situation we are in , God still loves us! When we suffer, it does not mean God has abandoned us. In fact, God is closer to us as we suffer when we let him enter our sufferings. When we suffer, we realize, there is nothing we can do, except to surrender our lives to God. Just as the Son of God entered the chaos and darkness of this world, Jesus can enter into the darkness of our lives and create something new out of nothing. The Chinese martyrs willingly gave up their lives because they know God will give them something new. They know suffering is God’s way of showing them his victory. Suffering is a veil that covers the glory God has planned for us. So the question is: do I want to suffer with God or do I want to suffer without God? This is our choice. If we choose to suffer with God, we are assured of his presence, of his power and of his life. The Psalm today says: restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine that we may be saved. Come to Jesus and see the face of God shine through the darkness in your life.
Lord, I am in the midst of my suffering and there seems to be no escape. So I invite you to my situation, to the chaos and darkness of my life. Pierce through this darkness and let your face shine so I may be saved. Remind me Lord, that it is through these sufferings that I can see your glory. St Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, pray that I may always remember that nothing separates me from the love of God.