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(Part 21)


February 12 & 13, 2016
These days’ reading: Isaiah 58:1-14

All the good that we do, if it does not positively impact the poor (both material and spiritual), would fall short of what God wants of us. What are the good things we do these days? We pray and seek God’s will. “They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways” (v.2a). These days of Lent, we fast. Our manner of fasting is to cut down on food and “to bow one’s head like a reed, and lie upon sackcloth and ashes” (v.5b).

But many Catholics who do so actually are not doing what is pleasing to the Lord. There are those who are actually looking not to God but just to themselves. “See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers.” (v.3b). Others are unruly and troublesome. “See, you fast only to quarrel and fight and to strike with a wicked fist!” (v.4a). Others do not practice justice and mercy. “Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?” (v.6-7).

The Lord challenges us: “Is this what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?” (v.5c). What actually is acceptable to God?

  • It is looking to the poor and the oppressed. “If you lavish your food on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted” (v.10a).
  • It is avoiding gossip and maligning others, especially engaging in slander and calumny. “If you remove the yoke from among you, the accusing finger, and malicious speech” (v.9c).
  • It is truly honoring the Lord’s Day, by attending to God and family. “If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from following your own pursuits on my holy day” (v.13a).
  • It is being selfless and self-denying, looking to God’s interests first and foremost. It is “not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs” (v.13c).

When we do all the above, that is when we can experience the fullness of God’s blessings. What are the good things we can look to?

  • Our light will shine forth in the world. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn” (v.8a). Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. Unfortunately, most Catholics are more like children of darkness. But we can overcome. “Then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom shall become like midday” (v.10b).
  • We will receive healing. “and your wound shall quickly be healed” (v.8b). We are all in need of healing--physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual. God is a God who heals, if only we live according to His ways.
  • We will receive vindication and have the Lord’s protection. “Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” (v.8c). Those who do God’s will are often maligned, oppressed and persecuted. But God is there to look after those who truly serve Him.
  • We will have access to God and receive the help we ask for. “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here I am!’” (v.9a). We never need be helpless and hopeless in a darkened world, for we can always turn to our God.
  • We will receive God’s wisdom and guidance. “Then the Lord will guide you always” (v.11a). We need not go astray, nor be confused, nor veer away from our mission.
  • We will receive what we need from God, and be strengthened by His constant provisions. God will “satisfy your thirst in parched places, and will give strength to your bones” (v.11b). In fact, the grace and blessings will be overflowing. “And you shall be like a watered garden, like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.” (v.11c).
  • We will be used effectively by God to help rebuild our Church and our society. “Your people shall rebuild the ancient ruins; the foundations from ages past you shall raise up” (v.12a). God will use us to bring renewal and revival to His people.

When we experience the above, then our life and work will have been truly of worth. Then we can look with delight upon our merciful God, as He Himself exalts His worthy and beloved people and servants. “Then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth” (v.14a).

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