Today’s reading from Isaiah tells us to honor the sabbath. Keeping the sabbath means giving up our ways and giving back to God. The beginning of our Lenten journey is a good time to think about what we want to give back to God and how to do it. Isaiah instructs us to not have somber demeanor and long faces, to instead "call the sabbath a delight…" and to not follow our own ways.
It seems clear when we look at our lives that God’s way is a way of delight and joy. Every time we think only of ourselves and look to "fulfill" ourselves or find ourselves, we come up empty. When instead we turn to God’s ways – when we do God’s works, when we feed the poor, and love our neighbor – we are filled with the delight that Isaiah speaks about.
Who do you think of when you call to mind someone who is filled with delight in the Lord? For me, I call to mind the smiling face of a woman I know who finds the world delightful, filled with blessings and opportunities for good. With her quiet demeanor, she reaches out to those in need, and loves all with whom she comes in contact. Perhaps you might call to mind Mother Teresa, who no matter how severe the poverty and destitution she saw, was filled with joy and always had that beautiful, slight smile. Or maybe you think of soon to be canonized, Damian, who found joy in the Lord through his work with lepers. With these people and others who spend their lives giving to others, we see true joy!
Whenever we try to find happiness in getting "more" for ourselves, relieving our own "suffering" or finding ways to always be more "comfortable" – we fail. On the other hand, when we do God’s work, when we care about others, we too can be filled with happiness and joy in the Lord!
Luke reminds us to repent. Maybe one of things we should repent this lent is our somber demeanor and long faces and seeking only our self-interest.
Let us enter into this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving filled with delight in the Lord!
Mary Lou Butler is a former staff member and is now a member of the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center Board, Sierra Madre, California.