I am six months into a new job that has brought me far from my family. The decision to move was the product of careful discernment. I believe I am here because God calls me to this work in this place at this time. Yet, as I plan and strategize for the success of my efforts, I often proceed as if everything depended on me. I forget where the call and the capacity to do the work come from.
Hosea is a fascinating book. It tells the story of the prophet whose marriage is a metaphor of God’s relationship to Israel. It is the story of an unfaithful spouse who thinks she needs to chase after lovers to secure her future. The historical reality behind this story is that of kings who did not trust in God’s plan for God’s people and instead built armies and alliances to fortify themselves against invasions only to find themselves conquered and exiled. Today’s first reading concludes thirteen chapters that describe infidelity and its consequences. It reminds us that, even if we have gone astray and put our trust in other things, we can return to God who is compassionate and desires our flourishing.
Given the urgency of so many social issues we face today, it is tempting to fall into the trap of thinking only in terms of strategies and tactics, losing sight of why we engage in the struggle for justice. When I remember what led me to the work I do, I find a certain freedom and lightness to even the most exhausting days. In these moments my labor is an expression of my love of God and of neighbor.
It is a spiritual practice that helps me remember. What helps you remember?
Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos is Vice President for Mission Integration and Professor in Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University. She has been in Jesuit Higher Education for over 30 years beginning her career at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.