“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel of their sins!
Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
(Isaiah 58:1-10 NLT)
I’ve noodled on the above Isaiah passage on and off for several years. I thought I understood. I didn’t. It’s just now hitting me that God is calling us to be both charitable and just. (Something I fear I fail sorely at.)
Consider what you read in Isaiah in light of what Rolheiser says in his book, Sacred Fire.
Jesus’ invitation that his disciples be both charitable and just is commonly misunderstood or, perhaps more accurately stated, is under – understood. How so? What Jesus asks of us here is not just that we be generous of heart and give in charity to the poor, though he does ask for that. He asks for more. Charity, as we know, can sometimes operate independently of justice, especially of social justice. Jesus does not just ask us to give in charity to the poor, he also asks us to work at correcting all the social, political, and economical structures that disadvantage the poor and help keep them poor. Charity seeks to give directly to the poor so as to help alleviate their property, Justice seeks to correct the structures that help create that poverty. And Jesus asks us to do both. (Rolheiser, 49)
I’m becoming aware that we (I) have been working to alleviate poverty (for women) without tackling the systems that create that poverty in the first place. The idea of going after systemic issues feels huge and overwhelming, and if I”m honest, makes me want to pick up my ball and go home.
God’s call is high. I thought I understood. I didn’t.
God have mercy on me, a sinner.