Monday of Holy Week
(Isaiah 42:1-7; John 12:1-11)
In one of last week’s gospel passages, the Jews become indignant to think of themselves as slaves of anyone. Their rejection of the term is ironic mostly because the Jews indeed lived as a subjugated people for swaths of history but also because they have seen themselves as the corporate Servant of the Lord as pictured by Isaiah in the first reading. Christians have not been reluctant to see Jesus and themselves as slaves in a metaphorical sense, at least.
In our minds we may distinguish servant from slave but in Hebrew the same word serves for both. A servant in ancient society was not a free person who hires him or herself out for domestic work but a person owned by a household. It was a degrading position as countless witnesses of American slavery attest. Yet Jesus put himself in the position in as much as he did the dirty work for the salvation of the world. In the gospel Jesus does not flinch from being anointed with costly oil because he knows that he is about to suffer in a worse way than the most abused slave and also because he is aware of the good intentions of the person who anoints him.
As much as Jews since the Holocaust see themselves as God’s corporate Servant of the Lord, the Church identifies with Jesus, whose life and death clearly reflect the description in Isaiah. We serve the world by deeds of justice and charity. When we support a poor child in Honduras or campaign for worker rights in Mexican maquiladoras, we add further testimony that Jesus brings justice to the nations.