Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (February 6, 2011)
Common Lectionary Readings:
Is. 58:1-12; Ps. 112; I Cor. 2:1-12; Matt. 5:13-20
Across the region, hundreds of thousands have continued to take to the streets this week, expressing their displeasure with economic conditions and calling for more democratic forms of government.
Largely peaceful demonstrations in Egypt turned violent on Wednesday and Thursday, as pro-government forces clashed with protesters calling for Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to step down immediately. Friday’s “Day of Departure” demonstrations were largely non-violent. Mubarak has promised to stay in power until elections this September, but demonstrators say they will stay on the streets until he leaves.
On Thursday, some 20,000 people held a “Day of Rage” in Yemen. The crowds in Jordan were smaller this Friday – perhaps due to the rain, but more likely due to changes the King has made in response to protesters’ concerns.
The Common Lectionary readings this week are about genuine faith – faith that moves beyond outward appearances by acting for justice.
In the Old Testament reading, the people complain that God pays no attention to their pious worship and fasting. God’s response? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Is. 58:6-7)
Those with genuine faith “rise in the darkness as a light for the upright,” writes the psalmist, “they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.” (Ps. 112:4)
In the Epistle reading, Paul says that genuine faith rests “not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (I Cor. 2:5)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus describes his followers as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:13-14) Jesus urges: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (v. 16)
The unmistakable message of Scripture is that genuine faith must be expressed in how we relate to one another – especially to the most vulnerable. This is the same message that demonstrators across the region are delivering so clearly: All human beings have dignity. All deserve to live in freedom. All deserve to have their voice heard. All deserve to have shelter and enough to eat.