Scripture: Lectionary 232: Isaiah 1:10.16-20. Psalm 50:8-9,16-17,21.23.
Isaiah’s first chapter is a call to repent and to be restored to the loving
care of God. Sins are remitted even though they be like scarlet, they
shall become white like snow. There are ten exhortations to repentance in
this section of Isaiah as Rashi tells us. The message is perennial and is
directed to us during this Lenten period. Verses 16 and 17 give us…”the
positive core of prophetic “instruction” (torah, v.10). The need for
purification and purgation of evil is combined with an emphasis on justice
and righteousness. Based on the commands in these two verses, the Midrash
specified nine virtues and linked them to the days between Rosh-ha-Shanah
and Yom Kippur. As the 10th day is the day of purification and atonement,
wo here the 10th feature of the list is “Come, let us reach an
understanding/…Be your sins like crimson,/They can turn
snow-white” (Yalkut Sh.2:389). Rashi refers to the list as “ten
exhortations to repentance.” (Etz Haim, p.1003).
In the Gospel we hear that Jesus, likewise, wants us to be open and honest
in our repentance. We are not to be hypocritical but transparent in our act
of sorrow and amendment. While we do observe certain rules and rituals
during this Lent, the more important observances are those that come
directly from a heart contrite and repentant.
Jesus leads us further into seeing that our service to one another is more
important than external practices even though they make us feel holier.
Honorific titles are to be avoided for servants are without such titles
even that of teacher. Jesus exalts us when we are truly humble and honest.
Thus anticipating one another’s needs, or simply filling in for someone who
is not doing their part of serving is important. We are all learners in
this area, that is, disciples of the Lord. Again and again our readings
from both testaments push us outward from our self-concerns and desire to
control. The corporal and spiritual works keep coming back to us in the
Lenten readings thus showing us how to fulfill the role of stewards and
servants of Jesus.
We are to be humble brothers and sisters in the family of God while
attentively listening to God through the prophets and through Jesus’ words.
God alone is our Parent, our Mother and Father, in the realm of the
spiritual call that we hear. We have but one teacher and that is the
Christ, the Son of God. Our behavior as servants means that we become
transparent to God and to one another–truthful and honest in our
relationships. Jesus keeps teaching us how to do this as he himself has
shown us the way to be a servant of the servants of God. We will always be
disciples who learn how to serve from the Master, Jesus our Lord. Amen.