Today, in Mercy, Isaiah tells us how to spiritually balance our lives.
Reading the passage, I thought of my Dad. He was a magnificent, though largely uncredentialed, handyman. One of many important lessons he taught me was how to “true up” a panel of wet wallpaper before pressing it into place. This was particularly necessary if the wallpaper had a vertical pattern or stripe. Failure here led to visitors sitting askew on the living room couch, trying to balance themselves out! 😂
Isaiah says we have to be as careful in our spiritual lives. He says we have to take certain measures to “true up” our souls with the heritage of grace God plans for us. He tells us to remove these imbalances:
oppression false accusation malicious speech
Wow! Can’t our world really use that advice?!
Isaiah further says to:
bestow your bread on the hungry satisfy the afflicted; THEN …. and ONLY THEN…
In our Gospel, Jesus calls a man whose career was about all about “balances” – Matthew, the tax collector. Jesus takes Matthew from a world of impersonalized requirements to a world of eternal abundance, calling him to align with the divine scale of mercy.
Are there places in our lives where we are measuring with the wrong scale; failing to true up the lines with God’s meridian? Lent is about checking it out and making the adjustments we need to make in order to let the Light in.
Music:There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy – Frederick Faber
Today, in Mercy,Isaiah “cries out, full throated and unsparingly”, to call the Israelites’ attention to their sins. He delivers God’s message that, despite all their showy religious efforts, they have missed the whole point.
Both Isaiah and Jesus, in today’s passages, challenge their listeners about the purpose of fasting. They call usto use fasting as a tool to focus our hearts and minds on the presence of God in our daily lives.
Isaiah indicates that we will encounter God’s presence in our exercise of the works of mercy:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
I was told a story once about an older Sister whom I never knew. She had died before I entered the community. But her beloved memory lived on because of her vibrant personality and deep spirituality. One day, greatly at peace with her declining health, she left her friends with this question:
What would it be like
to get to the end of your life and realize you had missed the whole point?
Our readings today want to save us from any such realization. They want us to get the point right now that God desires mercy and goodness not empty ritual and pretensive sacrifice.
Only then, God says, “shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.”
Today, in Mercy, we pray with the hope of Isaiah for a world without war. We pray for a human family whose only weapons are compassion, justice, and a sacred responsibility for one another and our Common Home. It will take great courage to build such a world, but the power of Christ is available to us. Advent is a time to reach for that power through prayer and action for global social justice.