Friday, February 24, 2012

Isaiah testifies on behalf of God, who testifies for the Poor; we need to listen:

1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. 3 "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. 4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 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 them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil (Isaiah 58:1-9 NRSV).
Carroll Stuhlmueller, O.P. writes that the judgment speech in vv. 1-7 is held together by two words: "(1) hapes (vv.2a, 2c, 3c) - Israel's desire for external ritual and fasting contrasts with Yahweh's desire for compassion toward the poor; (2) ana - intensely devout in afflicting oneself with fasting (v.3) yet neglecting the afflicted and needy in your midst! (v.7)...Fasting enables comfortable people to share the lot of the hungry poor and from this hunger to look to God as the source of life and nourishment. To fast and yet neglect the poor perverts religion" (NJBC, 345).

The turn in the speech comes at v. 8: "When lowliness unites all men and women, God's glorious presence shall rest upon them" (NJBC, 345).

John W. Martens

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