Hosea 2:16, 17b-18, 21-22
Don’t Forget the Honeymoon
Recently I recommended a book to over a thousand people. I should have read it first! Oops. I would like to talk about honeymoons. Sure enough, I’ve never had the joy of being on one. But here a few things I heard from friends.
One remembers his first argument with his new wife. Not sure who won, but it hit him in the face that he was not totally the center of her universe. Another talks of their first day at a beautiful beach. They enjoyed the water and sun. They slept after the work of a wedding. Then, for the next few days of their honeymoon they could barely stand any sign of affection that included touch. And I was with a group that accompanied a third couple to the airport when they were leaving for their honeymoon. At the gate and ready to board they learned they were about to step into the wrong flight!
Hosea talks about Israel’s honeymoon. Their first one lasted forty years. You know the story – many fights with their lover, running out of food and drink, idols and invasions. Yet Israel remembers their honeymoon fondly. God was with them in a special way, they were the Beloved, and God was a jealous lover. And now Hosea tells Israel that God would like to call them back to the desert to experience justice, fidelity, love and mercy. What a romantic God Israel has. Who can say no? One might question the venue. Tradition says that none of those who set out on the Exodus journey, even Moses, entered the Promised Land. They had all spent their lives on a honeymoon!
Honeymoons last days or weeks, but perhaps they contain within themselves a married lifetime in miniature? Hints of decisions to be made, that mistaken paths will be followed, sufferings to be wrestled with together? Israel had a long honeymoon with God. Perhaps it took that long to fill them with the hopes and promises and love that they would need to draw on in the centuries and sufferings that would follow? Hosea calls them to remember. Remembering is to experience anew the love affair that God wants to have with them.
What might our honeymoon be with God? I think of the sacraments as humanly meaningful experiences where we encounter the mystery of God’s love. Each has its own way…the accompaniment of a Good Shepherd for those sick, a new openness to the Spirit and God’s gifts to us at Confirmation, God’s on going creation that we share in through the love we give and receive in Marriage….These may be moments, some we repeat some we do not, we may feel the presence of God’s mystery or we may be caught up in some mundane distraction. But there are seeds that may blossom to be harvested by faith in another moment of life.
Let us take Hosea’s invitation to heart. Remember the honeymoons, the intimate encounters with God, and how God invites us again to the love of those meetings.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is pastor of St. Joseph’s Monastery parish in Baltimore, Maryland.