July 16, 2018 (Monday of Week 15 Year II)
Dear friends in Christ, again and again the prophets confront us with what true religion consists in. Religion must not be something that is done to attract attention nor must it be empty praises of God. Instead true religion also requires a good relationship with God which translates to a good relationship with one's neighbour. God does not delight in sacrifices coming from those who do not care about their neighbours. He delights however in the offerings of the righteous. Iniquity and solemn assembly do not go together.
Our first reading today (Isaiah 1:10-17) concerns the message the prophet was given by God to deliver. On Saturday we read about his vocation. Today the message takes the centre stage. This message is an indictment on the rulers and people of the time of Isaiah. Just as in the days of Amos and Hosea, the people delighted in offering sacrifices but not to God. They offered gifts and burnt offerings but from the proceeds of corruption and wrong-doing. So God sent the Prophet Isaiah to warn them of the consequences of their action and to let them know that he is not satisfied with their offerings.
Isaiah began by calling them rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrah. This stands as a great indictment of wrong religion. Sodom and Gomorrah were two prosperous but wicked towns that were condemned and destroyed by God in the time of Abraham. This is an indication that the rulers and people of the time of Isaiah were doomed to the same kind of destruction if something urgent is not done. Those two towns were wiped out completely as God rained fire upon them. They worshipped in magnificent buildings, with sumptuous sacrifices and by prayers but the Lord says, "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? I have had enough of burnt offerings...I do not delight in the blood of bulls...bring no more vain offerings, incense is an abomination to me...I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly...When you stretch forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood..." Isaiah makes it clear that, those who do evil cannot fool God by going to church, or sitting in the front rows in places of worship. Donating huge sums to religious activities is not what is required by God. You may cover your sins that no one else may see, but you cannot hide them from God. The door of mercy however remains open; repentance and a change of heart and your ways is more beneficial as the prophet cries, "Wash, make yourselves clean, remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow."
Let us pray: Wash me clean of my sins o Lord, that I may worship you in Spirit and in truth. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.