Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tuesday of Holy Week

(Isaiah 49:1-6; John 13:21-33.36-38)

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of Holy Week one of the four Servant Songs of Isaiah is read during the liturgy.  These passages point to a personage whose suffering saves Israel from its sins.  The servant acts like the firefighters of 9-11 who gave their lives rescuing trapped victims in the burning Trade Center. In today’s reading the Servant himself outlines the accomplishment of his efforts.  He says that not only have they brought Israel back to the Lord but are seen as a model for all nations.

The Suffering Servant is never named in Isaiah.  Some have thought him to be Moses or the prophet Jeremiah. Most Old Testament scholars today identify the servant as the collective people of Israel who have suffered atrocities like the Holocaust.  Nevertheless, Christians from the beginning have heard the Servant Songs as prophetic testimony to Jesus.  Although limiting his mission to Israel, Jesus’ suffering and death have redeemed the sins of the world.

The Servant Songs help us to link Christians with Jews and all peoples. God brought about human salvation through the people of Israel.  They gave birth and context to His Son whose life and teachings model human perfection.  Even more impressively, his gift of self in the brutal crucifixion manifested God’s love for the world.  Most critically, his resurrection unleashed the Holy Spirit to renew the world in that love.