The suffering servant

October 17, 2021

Not only did Isiah write centuries before the birth of Jesus, he also wrote centuries before the promise of resurrection. Yet in the course of the three sentences we hear today, he appears to foresee both. The Suffering Servant, the subject of a number of his poems, is a wonderful characterization of our Lord. Like Jesus, he offered his life to save us from our sins. He bore the guilt of humanity, lived his life to serve others, and his suffering saved many. But when Isiah says that through the Suffering Servant gave up his own life he can still see his descendants, he suggests a life beyond the tragic one he embraced. Though his days were dark, filled with affliction and suffering, “he shall see the light in fullness of days” (53:11). May we, no matter how dark our suffering, see the light of a life beyond all human understanding. Mark calls them, casually, “James and John, the sons of Zebedee” (10:35), but we call them formally, “Saint James, Apostle” and “Saint John, Apostle.” As saints, we take it on faith that they are in heaven, in the presence of God. As two of the original apostles, if we were to imagine their place in heaven, we could certainly imagine them close to the “throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). Yet Jesus’ response to them, his words to all the disciples, and pretty much everything he ever said, all imply that this is the last place where they would be. They misunderstood glory in the same way many misunderstood kingdom. The glory these future saints imagined is not one of recognition for their status, for in the kingdom, just to be in the eternal presence of God is glorious. To be a disciple means being a servant of all, serving our neighbor to the extent that we can. This is our mission. We can do this through works of charity, both far-reaching and close to home. We can do this by continually looking for what we can do for others. Perhaps our common refrain as a disciple should be, “What can I do?” This attitude of service makes us a true disciple. Amen.

(Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2021).

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