Thus says the Lord:
Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob.
They seek me day after day,
they long to know my ways,
like a nation that wants to act with integrity
and not ignore the law of its God.
They ask me for laws that are just,
they long for God to draw near:
‘Why should we fast if you never see it,
why do penance if you never notice?’
Look, you do business on your fast-days,
you oppress all your workmen;
look, you quarrel and squabble when you fast
and strike the poor man with your fist.
Fasting like yours today
will never make your voice heard on high.
Is that the sort of fast that pleases me,
a truly penitential day for men?
Hanging your head like a reed,
lying down on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call fasting,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
– it is the Lord who speaks –
to break unjust fetters and
undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
to clothe the man you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over.
Your integrity will go before you
and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer;
call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’
John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’
Your integrity will go before you
When I was a child, my father instilled in me the value of honesty and truthfulness. In word and deed, he taught me to be truthful and to become a person of integrity. Although this cost him several jobs in which he was asked to do something unethical, my father showed me that a person’s integrity cannot be bought. That has also cost me at times, but it is something that I’ve learnt never to compromise on my integrity.
That doesn’t mean I’m not a hypocrite. Apart from myself, there is no one more stern with me on this issue as my wife is. She has no qualms about being an Isaiah to me; she “proclaims my faults to me”, only because she knows that (I hope) I hate to be a hypocrite, and will strive to become more of a man of integrity.
To put it simply, hypocritical persons are those who say one thing and do another. Conversely, persons of integrity are people who do what they say. A clear example is in the gospel reading where Jesus’ disciples do not fast because the Christ is with them. Their actions match their beliefs.
In today’s first reading, the Lord tells Isaiah to be that voice of conscience for His people Israel, to proclaim to them their faults. That’s not going to win Isaiah much favour or popularity. It’s a dirty job, but necessary if the Lord’s people are to become aware of their hypocrisy, for God hates hypocrisy.
No one likes to be called a hypocrite, and as mentioned above, I get called that pretty often. But how we respond to the claim is important. Do we pause to reflect on whether or not that claim is true? Or do we immediately flare up and call the other person a liar? The former’s response is one of humility, the latter one of pride.
It’s not easy to be told you’re a hypocrite. It’s not easy for your faults to be told to you. It’s so easy, to tempting to be defensive about it. But this Lent, if we truly strive to grow in holiness and humility, let us ask God for people who love us and are courageous enough to point out to us our faults.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the humility to respond in graciousness and the wisdom to reflect on our wrongdoings.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for those who love us enough to be truthful to us.