The Oldie

God Sister Teresa


We all know people who are divorced, or single parents, or fathers and mothers desperatel­y trying to control rebellious children.

Such private worries are more than enough to cope with, and these same people are also appalled by the general breakdown of morality and the rule of law.

The prophet Hosea, writing in 722 BC, knew all these evils and, equally topically, also knew political tension and the mass of problems caused by Syria. Hosea’s main drive is against the infidelity of Israel, which abandons its true God for useless foreign idols, thereby inflicting a terrible wound on itself. The prophet’s cure for this disastrous state of affairs is repentance, which will allow God’s forgiving, nurturing and healing love to set all wrongs right.

In Matthew 9:10-13, we find Jesus taking the same attitude towards sinners: ‘While he was at dinner … it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When he heard this, he replied, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: ‘What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.’ ” ’

Jesus is here quoting from Hosea, and emphasisin­g that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who have no righteousn­ess of their own. It is a reproof to his glum and gloomy adversarie­s.

Hosea, as well as remonstrat­ing, uses some of the most poetic images to be found in the Old Testament. These mean just as much to us as they did to ancient Israel. He writes of the dew essential to growth, shelter from the burning sun, a blossoming lily, a sweet-smelling garden and a beautiful olive tree, all of which represent life at its most blessed.

In our northern climate, beautiful olive trees are rare, but there are countless other trees that are capable of reminding us of God’s existence and our need for him. They bring home to us that God is just as present in Britain as he is in the Holy Land.

There is here an almond tree outside the refectory window. It blooms so punctually, during the first week of March, that one could set one’s watch by it. Against a background of bare, ploughed fields and dark conifer woods, its blossom, of the palest pink, glows ethereally. It survives laceration by hail and battering by weeks of equinoctia­l gales. At the tail end of winter, it is a sign of hope and of spring – and therefore of Easter – being on the way.

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