Israel’s 8th century BCE prophet Hosea is often referred to in biblical commentaries as the “Prophet of Doom”. He has his reasons. In the passages from Hosea leading up to today, the prophet says the people no longer worship Yahweh in simple gratitude for their delivery from Egypt and the gift of the covenant. Instead, they solicit Yahweh for advantages of power, wealth, and prestige over their neighbors. Thus, doom is on the horizon. The prophet cries out, “Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the Land” (Hosea 4:1).
Moving centuries ahead: what controversy does the Lord have with me? When have I sought advantage over my neighbor? What relationships have I broken? Has my gratitude for the sheer gift of life slipped away? Answering these questions takes time. Lent is a gift of time offered in the liturgical year to explore these questions.
Today’s first reading is from the final lines of Hosea, where the prophet offers a glimpse of the promise that lies on the other side of true conversation with Yahweh. The promise is a place filled with lily blossoms, a place with “fragrance like the Lebanon cedar,” and an abundance of fruit from verdant cypress trees (Hosea 14: 5-8). Israel’s post-repentance shalom always unfolded in nature.
Could I aid my Lenten journey by taking my conversation with God into nature? I am told that God “speaks to us” in nature, that nature “grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness” (Pope Francis, Laudato Sí 12). Possibly some time with God in nature will help me converse with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength, as Jesus imparts in today’s Gospel reading from Mark.
Michael Schuck is a Professor of Christian Ethics in the Department of Theology at Loyola University Chicago, where he has taught for 30 years. Over the past six years he has focused his scholarly work on directing interdisciplinary international projects, including the Democracy, Culture and Catholicism International Research Project (published volume: Democracy, Culture, Catholicism: Voices From Four Continents, Fordham University Press, 2016) and the International Jesuit Ecology Project which has produced the online environmental science textbook, Healing Earth found at www.healingearth.ijep.net.