God's Word on Sunday: Fighting injustice the essence of worship

  • February 3, 2023

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) Feb. 5 (Isaiah 58:6-10; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16)

Spiritual illiteracy is one of the principal weaknesses of our time. It is far too common to read the Scriptures without sensitivity or understanding, seeking only lists of prohibitions, rules and details of proper worship. 

Isaiah exhorts us to open our eyes, minds and hearts and perceive the presence of God all around us and in the sacred texts. We read the will and presence of God in the lives of other people, especially those suffering from injustice and oppression. 

Injustice and the yoke of oppression come in many forms, all of them an offence to God and ultimately to us. Isaiah makes it very clear that only when human degradation and pain are eliminated will proper relationship with God be restored. Our prayers will rise to God and God will be able to bless and protect us fully. 

Rather than being political or trendy, loosing the bonds of injustice and breaking the yoke of oppression are the very essence of genuine religious worship. Without it the many forms that religiosity might take are of little value and in fact are examples of hypocrisy. 

When God asked Cain where his murdered brother Abel was, Cain’s retort was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God’s response throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, was a resounding “Yes!” Unfortunately, our societies and economic systems are built on human greed, fear and selfishness, and the tragic results are there for all to see. 

Isaiah offers the solution: Recognize the presence of God in others; tend to their needs, offering comfort and support; share freely what we have. He adds something important – ending the pointing of the finger and speaking of evil. Our societies and many human relationships are polarized and torn to shreds by shrill and hateful rhetoric, often expressed in personal attacks. These are all forms of profound ungodliness. 

We cannot expect that our world will be a happy place or that God will dwell in our midst until proper human relationships are restored regardless of how “religious” we might be. 

Paul was not an effective speaker and did not have a commanding or impressive presence. His enemies said so, and so did Paul. But for Paul, this was positive proof that the Spirit of God was working in and through him, for without it, he would have accomplished nothing.

He firmly believed that divine power is manifested through our weakness when we surrender to God. It’s not our show — it is God’s. This runs counter to the human obsession with appearance, charisma, competence and skill. Being grounded in the Spirit of God will enable us to become channels and instruments of God’s purpose regardless of who we are or the flaws we might carry. 

Isaiah urged us to recognize the presence and the will of God in other people, especially those suffering or in need. Matthew turns us around and exhorts us to recognize that same presence in ourselves. 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the light of the world!” Matthew, on the other hand, insists that we — followers of Jesus who take His teachings to heart — are the light of the world. And he urges us to shine brightly, never obscuring or hiding the light for any reason. That light serves as both a guiding beacon and an assurance of hope. 

The catching force of God-filled lives has an influence far beyond our immediate situation. The world depends on this light, especially in these dark times. 

Salt was held to be a very precious mineral endowed with the ability to purify and preserve. To be the salt of the earth is to play a crucial role in the purifying and preservation of the world. What would happen if the “salt’” should lose its flavour or force? Unfortunately, this is a real danger that we face today — a faltering and unclear light, and a spent and vapid salt. 

Only we can make that difference and that is our mission as those who dare to claim the name of Jesus. It’s not about being dogmatic or controlling but about illuminating the path of unity, compassion, justice and mercy —and showing that God is truly with us and in us.