Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sincere Religious Practice

Thick ice that had burdened the trees during the night was just beginning to melt as I walked this morning.  I could hear tree branches breaking in the woods.
Isaiah's chapter 58 is an especially powerful demand for sincere religious practice.  Part of it is used as the first reading this Sunday, and the first readings on the Thursday and Friday after Ash Wednesday cover the whole chapter.  The people ask God why he isn't paying any attention to their prayers and fasting and sacrifices. 
"I'll tell you why," answers God, "While you are fasting you keep right on oppressing your workers.  What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling?  This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me."  God goes on to list what we need to be doing: give workers a fair wage, feed and clothe and house the needy, and don't hide from relatives who need your help.  Do away with the clenched fist and the wicked word. "Then your light shall rise in darkness and your gloom shall be like noonday."
In Sunday's Gospel from Matthew, Jesus says "Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (5:16)
It is so much easier to fulfill some religious practice that we set for ourselves than to show love and care for those who come our way.

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