Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Isaiah 1:10,16-20

TUESDAY of the Second Week in Lent – First Reading
Readings: Isaiah 1:10,16-20; Matthew 23:1-12

First Reading
The choice is ours: Today's reading are an attack on hypocrisy and a call for humility in the presence of God and in the presence of our brothers and sisters.

The reading is from the very beginning of Isaiah and today's passage is primarily an attack on the people's hypocrisy - the same theme as in the Gospel....God, speaking through his prophet, denounces the endless round of burnt offerings and sacrificial animals. "Bring me no more futile cereal offerings, the smoke from them fills me with disgust."

"You may multiply your prayers, I shall not be listening." Why? Because "your hands are covered in blood." There is no relationship between the endless prayers piously offered and behaviour which is totally unacceptable to God.

But God's desire is not to condemn but to call his people to genuine repentance. "Wash yourselves clean!"

And how are they to repent? By offering still more sacrifices? By going to Confession? By saying a perfunctory Act of Contrition? No, "make justice your aim". They are to redress the wrongs done to others, to "hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow". In Jewish society of the time, these were the weakest and most neglected of people. There could be no real repentance unless care was taken of the weakest and most needy in society. For us, in Lent, the message is exactly the same.

  • either to submit ourselves to the compassionate way of God and find life;
  • or to go our own rebellious, self-centred way and find death.

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