Let’s consider the powerful first reading from a later chapter of Isaiah. It is scornful of people who are “religious” without being considerate of oppressed people.
Isaiah criticizes the man who bows “his head like a reed, and lies in sackcloth and ashes.” He scorns those who ask God, “Why do we fast, and you do not see it?”
Isaiah tells us that a church-goer who fasts and engages in all the devotions is a sham if he does to actively work for the happiness of other people.
Such criticisms are a delight to people who despise church-goers. They see such abuse as proof that God shares their contempt for people they call “Holier than thou’s” or “Craw-thumpers.”
But they are going too far. The word Religion has something to do with ligaments. Religion is a re-ligamenting us with God, and God with us. God. As such Religion is a most necessary part of a good life.
But Isaiah in today’s reading tells us that the opposite of that is true. A church-goer who fasts and engages in all the devotions is a sham if he does not actively work for the happiness of other people.
God is a doting father who has love for all people created in his image and likeness. Your prayers and fasts are obnoxious to him if you have no concern for those unjustly imprisoned, if you are unwilling to share your bread with the hungry, if you turn your back on your own.
It would be well for us if we could imagine ourselves suffering imprisonment with those unjustly accused, if we could imagine ourselves picking through garbage to find something to keep our children alive. We should image whatever happens to the least of our brothers and sisters as happening to us.