Covenant Love

In the first reading, Isaiah, in a satiric mode, calls the nation’s
leaders, “Princes of Sodom,” and its citizens, “people of Gomorrah.”
The reference is to the two cities, which were notorious in the Bible
for the most licentious kinds of sexual perversion. One commentator
suggests that Isaiah was not accusing the Israelites of reviving the
Sodom and Gomorrah life-style. Rather, he was suggesting that the
people of Judah were very like the people of the two cities in their
“rabidly individualistic gluttonies.” Judah’s great gluttony, however,
was not sexual, but avaricious and this led to massive social
injustices, which denied the covenant relationship the people of Judah
had formed with God. Isaiah pleaded with this people, “Make justice
your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the
widow.”

A religion from which true covenant living is absent is no religion at
all. One commentator calls it a “religion that has lost its soul” and
which gives importance only to externals. The people of Judah worshiped
God only with their lips; their hearts were not rooted in covenant of
love, but in the love of material success.

In the Gospel, Jesus offers a similar critique to the scribes and
Pharisees. Their interest was not centered in covenant living, or in
covenant love. They gloried in the hundreds of rules and regulations,
which they imposed on the people and on themselves, making religion for
the people an impossible obstacle course. Meanwhile they delighted in
distinctive clothing, in tokens of personal esteem, in honorific
titles.

Today’s readings demand that we ask ourselves some very hard questions:
To what extent is our living of the Catholic faith rooted in the
Christian covenant, in Christian covenant love?

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