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The Suffering Servant

The Suffering Servant

As I have written on other occasions, the first reading for the Eucharist during Holy Week offers us the four “Suffering Servant” songs of the prophet, Isaiah.  With the exception of Thursday, we will hear these poems in order.  Today we hear the first of those poems.  In this particular poem or song, the speaker is God offering thoughts about the servant.  Although it is almost impossible to read these poems without thinking of Jesus, let us remember that they were written about the nation of Israel rather than any individual. 

A fellow CUSAN spiritual advisor picked up the words about a bruised reed and a smoldering wick as the focus of his thoughts about this reading.  His perspective gave me a completely new way of looking at the suffering servant.  He saw in these images the gentleness employed by the servant in calling the world to justice.  To be sure, gentleness is not the way we usually go about enforcing our notion of justice.  In the face of terrorism and extremists who seek to kill and destroy, most people are ready to advocate extreme measures to put down the threat.  “Freedom isn’t free,” is a phrase that comes to mind when I think of our usual response to injustice and terrorism.  Because the extremists seek to kill us, some would say that we should kill them first.

As a victim of cruelty and injustice, Jesus could have reacted in the same manner.  His power to save others could have been employed to save himself.  Rather he suffered humiliation and death for our sake to teach us how to deal with injustice.  Through his suffering and death he has won for us kind of justice and security that can be taken away even when another threat comes our way.  We are secure as long as we stay close to God.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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