“Thus says the LORD: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” (Isaiah 58:7)
Do not turn your back on your own; I am struck by this image. To turn your back on someone means to look away from them—to exclude them from your actions and from your world. It is a denial of their personhood, or at least a denial of your relationship to them as brother or sister. They are cast off, discarded, “removed” from our midst. This is not God’s way.
Our exclusion of another person usually stems from some hurt we have received from them or from someone like them. We avoid members of a group that bullied us, we drive past an old rival rather than helping them change their flat tire. Or worse, we may respond with a rude word or gesture, or even with violence. For whatever reason, we act out of pain rather than out of love, and we are isolated.
This kind of behavior does not reward us with anything greater than the avoidance of more pain or embarrassment. The fruit of our wounded response is not healing; we remain victims—powerless and controlled by our offender. We add darkness to darkness.
Acting out of love, and overcoming our fear or hurt, we are suddenly blessed with a far better result: “If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.” By acting out of love, we follow God’s example of blessing those who hurt us. We become a light that shines through the darkness. We can look at the Cross and see the love of Christ shining through His pain. His Passion becomes a labor of love and a light for our paths. Then the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in us: “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.” Facing our offenders may demand courage and even a bit of humility, but in the long run, the results are far more worthy, far more human.
May God grant us the courage to be His Light for the world.
Peace in Christ,
Father Matthew Kuhn
Peace in Christ, Today’s Readings: Is 58:7-10 Father Matthew Kuhn