Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Psalm: 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
Today’s readings make me think of how often, and how easily, we make excuses for our "adjusting" the meaning of the Scriptures to suit our comfort or personal preference. It is a constant temptation to re-interpret the scriptural challenges of Jesus’ words into something less demanding for us. Even more, the Gospel reminds us that Jesus condemned and called hypocritical the religious figures of his day for whom appearances and honors were more important than the conversion to compassion that the Jewish tradition called for ("They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.").
Since the "widow" and the "orphan" are the only two social classes that are named, we might be excused if we read the words of Isaiah and conclude that God is condemning those whose generalized indifference to justice and charity merit their being addressed as "Sodom and Gomorrah". This appeal for conversion could be taken as the more abstract and universal pursuit of justice and charity ("cease doing evil" and "learn to do good"). However, we would be wrong because Sodom and Gomorrah are not cities like any other. In the Genesis account, they are cities which are consumed by fire and brimstone because of their overt depravity, their indifference to the welcome due a stranger, and their hardness of heart in the face of God’s intervention in favor of Lot’s household. Isaiah calls for the only kind of conversion that ever makes a lasting difference in the life of a community, that which touches the daily effort to live virtuously, to declare welcome those whom society oppresses, and to constitute family and communities where the Kingdom of God is proclaimed.
Jesus asks us to be "single-minded" about our relationship with God. Let God be your teacher ("rabbi"), and acknowledge God as the source of your life ("father"). With respect to our ties to one another: see one another as equals in dignity ("brothers’), and give to others your humble service ("humble", "servant"). This is the rock-solid, concrete, action-oriented message of today’s readings. May God give us the insight to discover the ways we can exercise this call to conversion today.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.