Working for the dignity of all people
The prophet Isaiah is reprimanding the people and actually comparing them to the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah. God has no time for shallow and empty prayer and fasting. There is no action behind their prayer and fasting. Isaiah accuses them of going through the motions. They pray and fast because that is what the Law says, but not what the Law means. Why do we pray? Why do we fast? We do these actions to open up our hearts to the will of God. We deny ourselves of something, whether food, drink, or materialism to realize that we need God in our lives to see how God sees. And when we pray and fast, we are listened to when we act.
The rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah wanted to cause harm to the angels that Lot welcomed into his home. These strangers were not from here they thought. They don’t belong here. This leads to even more sinful behavior because the inhabitants of these cities do not want anyone who will change their perception of the status quo. They do not need God. They had become their own gods. The comparison for the people of Israel to these people is a very strong warning from Isaiah; however, it is also a call for conversion from God. The people of Ninevah listened to Jonah. The Israelites did not, nor did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
For us today, how do we welcome the stranger? How do we welcome the immigrant? Do we fail to see the dignity of our brothers and sisters who have come here seeking to feed their families? Are we the entitled people that judge those whom we decide are not entitled? It sounds very familiar to the people that Isaiah chastised. It sounds very familiar to the actions of the rulers and people of Sodom and Gomorrah. If we cannot see that, it is vital to pray to God during this Lenten season and ask that our hearts, our eyes and our minds be opened. Have you chosen to give up something that is not healthy spiritually or physically? I have given up all meats and all dairy products. I pray to be open to understand God’s will for me in building this kingdom of God that Jesus began during his ministry. I am willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Are you?
When we pray and fast and open our hearts to God’s will, then we must act. Working for the dignity of all people who are suffering in our country can take many forms. It includes voting in ways that promote the morality that Jesus has and continues to teach us: to love one another, to share what we have, to welcome the stranger. When we act in ways that are befitting to God, we know God is listening and sending us the Spirit to do what we can to work with Christ to build this kingdom.
Father Jeff Stephan, Pastor, St Sabina Catholic Church in Belton