July 13, 2020 – Monday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071320.cfm)
In the first reading, Prophet Isaiah proclaimed to the people God’s message. It was addressed to the rulers of Sodom and to the people of Gomorrah. Isaiah particularly called their attention “to hear and to listen” because they pretended not to hear God at all. These people were identified as citizens of the “sin cities” in the biblical times.
Moreover, as Isaiah served as God’s messenger to the people, God also expressed the divine dismay and disappointment over these people. God basically expressed how fed up He was with the practices of the people and sick of those facades portrayed by them. The sacrifices made by the people were found unworthy by God. God was not pleased. God even despised them.
Why? Why would God close his eyes and not listen to their prayers?
The reasons for these are found at the evil and unjust practices committed by them against the weak and the poor. Yahweh called the people to remove their evil deeds and to put an end on their wickedness. The people are called to seek justice and to do good. And how? It is by ending their selfish desires, stopping the abusers, caring the orphans and defending the widows. Meaning, the people are rather called to respond in concrete actions in the way God wants them to be and that is to be people for others.
To become people for others is to take the side of those who are helpless, homeless, sick and poor. Only then that they also become true people of God.Tweet
Hence, when our rituals, our prayers and other forms of devotion will stop to be just mere religious practices, then, these are all in vain. When we are too strict in our observance of our prayers, too sophisticated in performing our rituals but remain unmoved to the plight of the poor, unkind to those who need our help and indifferent to unjust practices around us, then, we are not different from the rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrah.
They had grown complacent and corrupt. They had become too attached to their comfort that they also tended to only focus on what was easy and beneficial for them. Their sacrifices and oblations were not for Yahweh. Those were merely shows to display how spectacular their rituals were.
They found pleasure in them, but not God. They found contentment in their practices, but not God. They were extravagant for themselves but unkind to the homeless. They were sophisticated people but blind to the difficulties of the poor. They would not dare take sides of the oppressed because it would require more sacrifices from them. Thus, the rulers and the people would just keep the abusers among them because they too enjoyed their benefits. This is how Yahweh found displeasure in them and in their attitude.
No matter how expressive we can be in our religious practices, we are not immune to the virus called INDIFFERENCE and COMPLACENCY. These are attitudes that may grip our hearts to become passive, unmoved, unkind, ungenerous to the needs of others.
However, just as Isaiah was sent to the people to call them back to Yahweh, each of us today is reminded to beware of this tendency in us. This is what Jesus calls us in the Gospel of Matthew.
He asked, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”Tweet
The peace that Jesus talks about here, is most likely the peace that we believe, the peace that is only about comfort and routine of life or ‘business-as-usual.’ This means that we go and proceed to what we usually do in life by doing what we want and by satisfying our needs and desires, from mere our complacency, unchallenged and unconfronted. Thus, this peace only knows about maintaining the status quo and the order that we are comfortable with and a kind of relationship that will not disturb and will not challenge us. Yet, this peace is shallow and remains self-centered. It simply focuses on our ego.
However, Jesus is not bringing this kind of peace but sword that will pierce and disturb us. This includes piercing and disturbing our comfort, our current situation, our complacency, indifference and even routine.
Hence, we may choose to be passive because, we do not want to be challenged, we do not want to go beyond and become life-giving. We do not want because it requires more effort from us, more time and more presence from us. As a result, we would not want to confront ourselves and others because it might cost us conflict and division, as Jesus said clearly in the Gospel. Because we do not want to sacrifice the contentment and the comfort that we apparently enjoy, so we distance ourselves from what God calls us to be.
But, God does not want us to become a person like this because we will become prisoners of our own selfish desires. We will become abusive and corrupt yet the most insecure of all.
Moreover, Jesus does not want us also to just go with the flow of life and remain passive. We might find ourselves to settle to what is only easy, comfortable and beneficial by doing the same things, thinking the same thoughts and imagining the same ideas to the point that we refuse to do more and give more.
The Lord wants us to find freedom. Jesus comes to disturb our seemingly peaceful lives. Jesus is not in favor for making ourselves stagnant. However, Jesus wants us to grow, to develop, to mature, to give life and to become the person He wants us to be.
This means that our relationship with God becomes the first of all our other relationships. Yet, this will surely cause division in our other relationships because others may not understand us why we take the side of God and not them.
Despite these challenges, we way find the courage to allow the Lord to disturb our complacency, indifference, passivity and routine so that we will be able to see things differently and wonderfully. We may become life-giving then as we express our faith and show to others the presence of God in us through our prayers, through our devotions and concrete actions of kindness and generosity. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR