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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

How do we speak of God? How do we see God relating to us? And how do we, in turn, relate to God?

It is customary to think and to speak of God as Creator, as the Almighty, as the Omnipotent Master of the Universe. Yes, that is correct, and it may even be more comfortable to speak of God that way. With titles like that it is easier to retain and respect the safe distance between God and us.

But if we listen to the Scripture readings, especially today’s first reading, we get a quite different impression. God seems to prefer a more intimate relationship with us. In that first reading, by way of the prophet Hosea, we hear God speak to us:

“I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her….
I will take you for my wife forever;
I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice,
in steadfast love, and in mercy.
I will take you for my wife in faithfulness;
and you shall know the Lord.”

That is not the language of a distant Creator and Master. That is the language of a lover in pursuit of his beloved. Yes, the Scriptures use the marriage relationship as an image to convey God’s desire to be near to us, to be with us. The kind of bond that God would want to see between himself and us is captured in the image of the marriage bond.

In the Scriptures, God is presented as the bridegroom and human beings, women and men, as the bride. I don’t know how comfortable we are with that notion, but as human beings we have been called to and we have been created for a spousal intimacy with God. That is to say, a relationship that is not marked by the partners keeping a safe distance from each other. There is not much happiness and joy in that, is there? Instead, we as human beings have been called into a relationship, a bond of love with God that delights in the presence of the other and lives to please, serve and complement the other in every conceivable way.

What the prophet Hosea talks about in the first reading is not just the desire or the dream of God. It has become flesh and blood, it has become reality in Jesus. In his dying and rising from the dead Jesus has sealed that relationship, that bond of love between God and us. It is a covenant relationship, not just a contract. Listen to what the priest says in the Eucharistic prayer: “This is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant”. That is also the reason why Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage speaks of himself as the bridegroom. Of course, on our part participating in that bond of love, contributing to keeping it alive has its own challenges. The vibrancy and strength of that relationship is not measured by our observance of laws and regulations or by our attempts to win God’s favour. We have God’s favour, unmerited; it is gratuitous. But noblesse oblige. We must cherish and honour it above all by letting it govern and shape our interaction with God and with each other.

Having come together for eucharist is our way of celebrating God’s love for us and of letting ourselves be won over by God’s desire to be our God, by God’s desire to be with us, by God’s tenacity and fidelity towards us. If that celebration is authentic, it will inevitably impact on and shape our relationship with each other once we have left this place After all, the person sitting next to us is just as much loved and cherished by God as we are. And we have to protect and advance that in each other and in ourselves. After all, we are all God’s beloved, God’s chosen ones.

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