Monday, February 18, 2013


As we continue along our Lenten journey, and with a special emphasis upon the humiliations which Jesus suffered, there is great spiritual power in turning to the final Suffering Servant poem from the prophet Isaiah:

He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.

Yet it was our pain that he bore, our suffering he endured.  We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.  He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.

Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth.

Seized and condemned, he was taken away.  Who would have thought any more of his destiny?  For he was cut off from the land of the living, struck for the sins of his people  [Isaiah 53: 3--8]  (The entire poem is read every Good Friday during the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord.  Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12)

The poem of the Suffering Servant is important for all of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ since we are called to imitate his words, actions, and life.  Part of that journey will always entail suffering from time to time.  But what makes Jesus' suffering so different, and so important for us, is that he lived out Isaiah's prophecy fully:  "...he did not open his mouth..." 

That means never rationalizing what is happening in our lives, never protesting misunderstandings, and never getting angry because of false accusations.  And that is so difficult for us human beings.  It is certainly difficult for me on my journey.

Not opening our mouth in repudiation or backlash goes against our human nature, and against our pride.  But remaining silent after the example of Jesus leaves each accusation in the hands of our loving and forgiving God, not in the hands of other humans with varied agendas.

May I encourage all of us to reflect upon the four Suffering Servant poems in Isaiah during Lent.  The first three are used during Holy Week at our Masses on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; the fourth on Good Friday. (1)

May the silent Jesus become a new petition for each of us this year during Lent.

(1)  The four Suffering Servant poems:  Isaiah 42:1--4; Isaiah 49:1--7; Isaiah 50:4-11; Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12.