In the first reading Isaiah quotes God as saying he does not want any fancy religious practices. The kind of religion God wants is composed of acts of justice and kindness.
God says, “Trample my courts no more! Bring me no worthless offerings. Your incense is loathsome to me. Though you pray the more, I will not listen.”
Then God tells us the kind of religious acts he wants. “Learn to do good. Make justice your aim. Redress those who have been wronged.”
The Bible isn’t telling us that coming to church and taking part in rituals is wrong. The Psalms and so many pages of the Bible’s speak of the beauty God sees in our worshipping together.
No, what Isaiah tells us in today’s readings is that saying ones prayers and worshiping with others is meaningless if it is not balance by a life of active concern for others.
In a day we meet with many people who have voids in their lives. Doing what we can to fill a void here and there is being truly religious.
When I was a seminarian I had younger seminarians working with me at a summer camp, and we used to walk into town for morning Mass. One Friday the pastor, Father Tony Polumbo, asked us to stay over the weekend to help with his carnival.
I said there was no place for us to sleep, but Father said we cold sleep in the convent. I asked where the nuns were, and he said at five in the afternoon two days back he received a phone call about a big accident down the highway. On his way out to the car he met the sisters who were going to the chapel. He asked them to come along to help with the accident victims.
They said they couldn’t come because their rule had them saying Vespers at five o’clock. They said they couldn’t miss their five o’clock Vespers, so Father Tony told them to say their Vespers, then pack up and leave. They did. I don’t remember much about the carnival.