Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
The readings today emphasize again the theme of Lent: repentance. We are called to turn to the Lord, seek forgiveness for our sins, and set our hearts on the will of God.
Jesus strongly objected to what the Scribes and Pharisees had done to religion. "They bind up heavy loads, hard to carry, to lay on other people’s shoulders, while they themselves will not lift a finger to budge them." Religion should be a blessing and not a burden. It should help us through the difficult times and not create difficult times. It should be a help and not a hindrance. How do we feel about our religion?
The Scribes and Pharisees complained about Jesus and his disciples for not fasting, for being at dinner parties with sinners, drinking wine, etc. Jesus responded to the critics by bringing forth the image of a wedding feast, a decidedly opposite religious image of gloom that the Scribes and Pharisees described. When Paul the Apostle listed the fruits of the Spirit, notice the list begins with love and joy. If someone professes to love music but is gloomy about it, no matter how gloriously the person talks about the value and role of music, their testimony is in doubt. If I say how much I love nature and then I don’t really enjoy it by my actions, my witness isn’t worth much. The same can be said about religion. Authentic religion should bring gladness into our hearts, not gloom! Authentic religion should be a blessing.
Second, does our religion make us bigger or smaller? Does it turn us inward or does it open our minds to greater concerns and our hearts to more people. A religion that replaces selfish concerns with the larger issues of life is indeed a blessing.
Does our religion bring us gladness, does it make us bigger? Let us examine our faith with this in mind. Maybe we need to repent for being attached to the wrong side of religion. "Come now, let us set things right," says the LORD. Let us show that our religion is a blessing by the way we live.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.