In the September 16 issue of Commonweal, Catholic theologian Gary Anderson explains that ancient Judaism had two very different ideas of salvation. In the older view, salvation comes from proper worship. If you do the rites correctly, bowed at the right times, said the right words, etc., you’ll be saved. But as Jewish religious thought evolved into the time of Jesus, they came to believe that it was in doing good for others that Jews properly worshipped God and enacted their own salvation.

Ours is not a merit-based faith. If God was only taking the ones who “earned” their salvation, he’d have a lot of room all to himself. But even so, Isaiah today reminds us of the blessings that our good deeds can still have in the world, how our actions can help a little more light to shine in the dark places, and help us with the burdens that we carry, too.

Sometimes we make our lives as small as the cell phone screens we hold in front of us. But in truth everything we do ripples out and affects so many more. How important it is to step back from time to time and take that broader view.

—Fr. Jim McDermott, S.J, a Wisconsin province Jesuit, is an accomplished professional screenwriter who lives at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles CA.