Wednesday of Holy Week
Often enough Christians meditate only on the gospel reading at Mass showing little interest in the readings from other parts of the Bible. Of course, this is like running with blinders. The non-gospel books of the Bible provide privileged sources of understanding the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Few passages of Scripture give better context for appreciating Jesus passion than the four so-called Servant Songs which we read on Monday, Tuesday, today Wednesday, and Friday of Holy Week. These passages are taken from the work of an unnamed prophet who is called “Second Isaiah” because his writings are attached to those of the great prophet of Judah. Second Isaiah lived in Babylon with other exiled Jews. He recognized his call from God to preach to the people about the wonderful deliverance God was about to work on their behalf. Second Isaiah’s writings comprise much of the middle part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. They appear to be autobiographical telling how the prophet has suffered on behalf of the people.
But what Second Isaiah says about his own trials we can apply, with greater relevance, to Jesus. In today’s Servant Song, for example, we remember how Jesus communicates with God in prayer, how both Jews and Gentiles beat and spit upon him during his trials, and how God vindicates him when the persecution ends in his death. The Servant Songs announce a completely new form of messianism. No longer is the Messiah a sword-wielding conqueror of armies. Rather, he defeats evil by patiently taking upon himself the sins of others. We certainly understand Jesus in this way.