5th Sunday in OT / A / 2020
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
In my few words this morning, I want to concentrate on the OT, our first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah—a beautiful reading that gives us some very good concrete advice—and the consequences, the benefits, we might say, that will come if we heed these words. So what does Isaiah say?
"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."
Pretty concrete . . . actions for us to do. Not just an attitude. But action. Not simply contributing to a fund or an organization—which is good. But do something yourself.
Isaiah’s words are very much in the moment, as if to say, "When you see this, take care of it. A person hungry. Give them something. A person who needs shelter. Take them in. If someone is naked, put some clothes on them, and so on. Do something!
Dorothy Day once said that everything we do, everything, should in some way, either directly or indirectly, be connected with the Corporal Works of Mercy. Remember those? They come straight from Isaiah: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, bury the dead.
I was at a meeting the other day with a man named Homer Williams, a local developer, a well-known name around town. With me were some folks from Trinity Cathedral, and Congregation Beth Israel.
Homer Williams is on a mission to do something about the homeless in Portland—and he wants our support. He was inspired by a project called Haven of Hope in San Antonio, Texas—a very large full-service shelter for the homeless—and he is trying to replicate it here in Portland—called Harbor of Hope.
What inspired me about Homer’s presentation was that he decided to do some good, and he is doing it. You can already see some fruits of his labors, the shelter under the Broadway Bridge.
This is what Isaiah is talking about: get out and do something, even something small. An act of kindness. An act of love. Don’t pay someone to do it. Do it yourself.
And what are the consequences if we do? What does Isaiah say?
"Then your light shall break forth like the dawn." A beautiful image. Remember that Israel was to be a light to the nations—that through the good deeds of Israel, God’s purposes would show forth, and all the nations would stream to Jerusalem.
We might say that there is no better tool for evangelization than love and good works. Tertullian, a Father of the Church in the 2nd century, in describing why pagans became Christians, said this: "It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See how they love one another,’ they say . . . how they are ready even to die for one another."
A second consequence of living the Corporal Works of Mercy: "Your wound shall quickly be healed." Here, the wound might be spiritual or psychological. Getting out and doing something, doing good, has healing qualities. (Panacea) You will benefit to the extent that others benefit from you!
And finally, a third consequence: "Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard." Sounds military. God before you, God behind you. Your protection is complete.
The Gospel sums it all up: you are salt; you are light. Flavor the world with God’s love and mercy—and show others the light.