Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim; redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow…
If you are willing and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you
-Isaiah 1 (Tuesday, 2nd week of Lent reading)
Today’s Mass readings are challenging, to say the least. The first reading tells you exactly what to do: good, seek justice, reconciliation, care for the orphan and widow (as mirrored by James 1:27). The Gospel reading (Mt 23:1-12) then tells us to practice what we preach, walk the walk, don’t be a hypocrite, etc etc etc. It’s a nice match up, making for a nice homily.
But what stood out to me, because I’m obsessed with food right now, is where is says, “If you are willing and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land.”
I’m a bit of a mini-psychologist at heart. I like to figure people out, where their issues begin and end, why they do what they do (good and bad), and how to change what I (or they) do based on observation and experimentation. In psychology, the difference between cognitive behavioral, behavioral, ecological, and allopathic approaches come down to questions like, “Do thoughts change behaviors?” “Or do behaviors change thoughts?” “Is the problem environmental or genetic?”
For example, if I believe that I hate myself (a thought), I might do something to hurt myself (behavior: smoke, drink, seek bad relationships). The counselor, then, works on the negative thoughts to change the behavior. It may also work vice versa. Or maybe I smoke because that is the environment I was raised in, and all the people I hang out with also smoke. Or maybe maybe one of my parents really hated themselves also, and their parent, and their parent (genes).
You get the idea. There are a number of reasons why we do what we do, and their are a number of ways to change it. Ultimately, the reasons are going to be extremely complex, and based on the framework a counselor most adheres to, they will start to tackle a clients issue from one of these areas. If that doesn’t work, then they try another angle.
So, based on my lenten locavore learning and psych training, I couldn’t help but wonder, “If I eat the good things of the land, might I then naturally develop a willingness to obey, be good, seek justice, etc?”
What do you think?It’s kind of a weird question. But by being a locavore this Lent, by eating “the good things of the land”, I’ve been forced to really engage my local community through farmer’s markets. I’ve learned about certain injustices in our food system, and try to do my best to make better choices in order to “redress the wronged”. Like stop wasting food, give food away, donate to and promote worthy causes.
It may not be the same for everyone. The process may make someone else feel angry and frustrated and helpless (which are legitimate feelings). But I thought it was kind of cool that for those of us that already have access to “the good things of the land”, from a psych perspective, Isaiah’s passage could also work in reverse.