Religion is a vehicle that brings us closer to God as well as fellow humans. The whole commandment is summed up into “Love of God and love of neighbors.” Any religion or religious practice that prevents people from achieving this end can only be called a ‘fake’ practice. One can come closer to His creator only when one is pure in his intentions. An external observance of religious rules without a pure interior disposition is simply hypocrisy and Christ condemned this when He was talking to the Pharisees.
Justice and mercy are essential aspects of being religious. Micah 6 vs. 8-16 talks about what the Lord requires. Not the best calves to burn as offerings to Him, Not thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil or even a first-born child. What the Lord requires of us is this: “to do what us just, to show constant love (mercy), and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
Sometimes we give undue importance to external observances of rules and regulations (which in itself are not bad) while neglecting a friend who is in need of our helping hand, a neighbor who lives in misery, and a sick person who has no money to buy medicine.
Sometimes we religiously receive the sacraments and often follow all the religious observances while refusing to pay just wages to our staffs, hiding our income to avoid paying tax. We often appear good before people while putting up a brave front to cover up our weaknesses, building defensive mechanisms to hide our fears and often paying a bribe to get a favor done. A life that is hidden behind a mask is not a genuine life yet we often hide beyond the mask of religion to perpetrate various atrocities.
External observances, of course are important but more important than this is interior purity. This is even more reason for a need in sincere prayer and worship of God. Without a proper interior disposition, our prayers, worship, and religious practices are mere lip service, abominable to God. The source of all evil in the world is the human heart. Therefore, unless the heart is cleansed and purified, evil will continue to multiply, and yet religiosity will still thrive. However, once we are clean and pure, we will have a religion that is pure and undefiled before God.
Justice and mercy are therefore the true foundations on which all religions must stand, not external observances.

Culled from: “God’s word 2015: Daily Reflections”


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