Tuesday of Epiphany V – Isaiah 58:1-11

“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
    and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
    and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
    they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
    Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
    and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
    and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
    will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
    a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
    and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
    and a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
    the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.

It happened again today. Just look at the news. Another person was found to be a hypocrite. Was it a socially conservative politician being arrested for soliciting a prostitute or was it a liberal activist whose multi-million dollar mansion belies their identification with the poor and oppressed? Was it another version of the Los Angeles politicians who played the race card repeatedly but then were secretly taped uttering slurs about another racial minority? Or worse, was it a religious figure who was outed for some sexual or financial sin? Our world loves to expose a good hypocrite. I must admit it, I like seeing their hypocrisy exposed no matter their ideological or personal bent. 

Through His prophet Isaiah, our Lord has His hypocrisy meter on high sensitivity. The people pretend they love God and seek Him out, but the Lord points to the realities of their lives and reads another story there. They bend their bodies and bow their heads like a reed as they say their prayers, but God is interested in the liberation of the bound, the undoing of injustice, the breaking bread with the hungry, and the clothing of the naked. I once had someone tell me they were looking for a church that wasn’t full of hypocrites. I recommended that when she found it that she not join it. She would ruin it. I must be careful with my delight in the unmasking of the hypocrisy of my neighbor and not only because I most likely share in their vices in some way and have my own hypocrisy, but because such delight turns quickly to cynicism and despair of any good. God calls Isaiah’s people and us to lives which live in mercy, kindness, generosity, and care for our fellow human being. He does so because he has put just such a love in our hearts. It is possible because God has shone His Light, Jesus, in our hearts. Our gloom, our worst days, shines with His forgiveness. He has died and risen again for us because we are hypocritical sinners and need just such a Savior. Now, we can put away the pointing of the finger and speaking of wickedness. God gave us His mercy and grace for just such a reason, that we be the light which this world desperately needs. This takes faith. Trust in Jesus. He will help you.

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