THE SERVANT GENERAL
NO ONE IN NEED
JUSTICE AND MERCY
Today’s reading: Isaiah 58:1-9
We are God’s servants. When God calls, we should say,
“Here I am.” But amazingly, there is an instance
when these will be God’s words, in response to our call.
“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you
shall cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here I am!’”
will occasion this astounding turn of events? It is when we
live out justice and mercy in relation to the poor. Justice
is “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs
of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking off every
yoke” (v.6b). Mercy is “sharing your bread with
the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your
house; clothing the naked when you see them” (v.7a).
Justice and mercy is ministering to the least, the lost, the
last. It is loving and caring for those who are unjustly treated,
oppressed, afflicted. It is looking to provide food, clothing
and shelter to the poor. It is working at human liberation.
is authentic fasting. God says, “Is this not, rather,
the fast that I choose” (v.6a)? This was in contrast
to the hypocritical fasting of the people. But notice that
the people were trying to be righteous. “They seek me
day after day, and desire to know my ways, .... they desire
to draw near to God.” (v.2). Now here they were fasting,
acting “to bow one’s head like a reed, and lie
upon sackcloth and ashes” (v.5b). But God was not impressed.
“Why do we fast, but you do not see it? afflict ourselves,
but you take no note?” (v.3a).
answer was simple. “See, on your fast day you carry
out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. See, you
fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked
fist!” (3b-4a). They were fasting but they went selfishly
about their own concerns, they oppressed their laborers, they
fought with each other, they inflicted harm on others. They
were going through the formality of fasting, but they were
transgressing and sinning. They were selfish, unjust and unloving.
that not like many Catholics? Going to Mass on Sunday and
receiving communion, but the rest of the week are doing things
contrary to God’s ways. Worshiping God in an assembly,
but being selfish with time, talent and treasure. Proclaiming
the gospel to others, but not being a living witness to that
same gospel. Praying at the start of the day, but then doing
unrighteous acts at the workplace. Serving in community, but
engaging in gossip and maligning of others. Fasting during
Lent, but not sharing unselfishly with the poor.
then can God hear us? How then can God help us? “Do
not fast as you do today to make your voice heard on high!”
(v.4b). But if we engage in authentic fasting, if we practice
justice and mercy, if we do sincere work with the poor, not
only will God be there at our “beck and call,”
but we will be greatly blessed, especially as we go about
doing God’s work. We are called to be light to the world;
“then your light shall break forth like the dawn”
(v.8a). We can expect to be bruised and bloodied as we engage
in spiritual warfare; but “your wound shall quickly
be healed” (v.8b). We will be oppressed, mocked, maligned
and persecuted; but “your vindication shall go before
you” (v.8c). We will face many challenges and sacrifices
as we plod along the path God has given us; but “the
glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” (v.8d).
Lent, let us then rigorously examine ourselves. “Is
this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”