Ordinary Time 5 A coming this weekend. The prophet Isaiah gives us in the first reading the corporal works of mercy. Too many Catholics today think that social justice was invented by Vatican II as a novelty. To say nothing of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, social justice is deeply embedded in the Law of Moses, and therefore has a long history in the Christian tradition. The early church was famous for taking care of the poor and needy; this is why St. Paul is always taking up collections. In the texts gathered in The Apostolic Fathers, the Didache and Ad Diognotus are particularly filled with admonitions about the poor. These corporal works of mercy even today is a summary of the social work of the church.

The unexpected results of this mission is favor with God, yet in another sense, the effects of mission. In other words for Isaiah, favor with God is not found through Temple worship, but through the fulfillment of the law in justice. I realize that for many this is blasphemy, but we’re still living in the Jansenistic world of “do ut des” religion, in which God answers our prayers without the need to do anything else. Prayers that do not result in acts of justice, in Isaiah’s view, don’t seem to add up too much. Of course, social justice makes religion much more difficult and challenging.

The benefits of mercy are numerous in the reading, in fact make up most of the reading. They are graces from God as his justice toward us in the covenant, and we cannot do justice just because we expect God to bless us in return, as that corrupts the whole intent.

The line in the text for today is “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech,” is quite apt for today in which truth is made false and the false made truth.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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