Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23
Isaiah’s words are words of comfort: “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow”. Even if our sins are as many as the Samaritan woman’s or as serious as King David’s, God will forgive us and purify us. Isaiah calls the people to repentance, first likening them to the sinful inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, and then showing the way out of sin.
First, Isaiah turns our attention to God’s Word: “Hear the word of the Lord; listen to the instruction of God”. This is the starting point for our examination of conscience. We first confront our lives with God’s revelation and with the holiness to which he calls us. We “learn to do good” by meditating on God’s Word, asking for his guidance in applying this to our lives, and asking for the strength to fulfill this Word.
Second, Isaiah tells us to wash ourselves spiritually: putting away our misdeeds and ceasing, with God’s help, to do evil. God’s Word enlightens us and shows us where we have failed. This is important because sin tends to blind us to our own faults and make us concentrate on the faults of others. We neglect the log in our eye and attempt to remove the speck in our brother’s eye.
Third, Isaiah indicates the path of justice that we are to follow. “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow”. By overcoming sin in our lives, our attention is directed to those who are less fortunate and to those we have hurt.
Finally, Isaiah links obedience to God’s commandments with blessing (eating good things) and refusal of God’s commandments with punishment (the sword will consume you). Enlightened by God’s Word we are urged to leave aside sin and pursue justice in obedience. This is an offering of praise, a sacrifice that glorifies God. This is the path that leads to salvation, blessedness and divine life.
The Gospel today encourages us to overcome the temptation of pride and hypocrisy. These were the sins of the Pharisees, who trusted in the external observance of the Law and expected everyone to follow their example. The psalmist criticizes this pharisaical attitude: Does God delight in animal sacrifice (external fulfillment) when our hearts are far from him? The answer is that only the humble truly praise and glorify God. In fact, humility leads to man’s glory and exaltation. This is the way of Jesus: thirty-three years of humble solidarity with man, becoming the servant of all, obedient acceptance of the curse of the Cross, transformation of suffering into the salvation of man and the glorification of the Father, heavenly exaltation at God’s right hand. This is also our path.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].