St Stephen Lewisham
Holy Week Monday
The Suffering Servant
Hidden away in the Book of the prophet Isaiah are four Poems or Songs. We shall hear the first three Songs read at Mass on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week and the Fourth on Good Friday.
All four were given by God to Isaiah the Prophet about 500 years before He revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ They are called the ‘Servant Songs because every Song mentions aperson whom God calls ‘My Servant’. The Jewish people of Isaiah’s day had many theories about whom these words referred to: some thought they meant the Prophet Isaiah himself, others that they referred to his contemporary, King Hezekiah and yet others that they were about God’s people, Israel.
But from its earliest days the Church recognized ‘The Servant’ as referring to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when seen in the light of His sufferings at the hands of His own people who (as St John wrote in the preface to his Gospel) ‘did not accept Him’, – and who nailed Him to the Cross on Calvary on Good Friday. Hence they came to be called the “Suffering Servant Songs” – and why they are read during Holy Week.
In the First Song, we heard God introducing His Servant to us:. “Here is My Servant”, God says “My chosen One in whom My soul delights”. So whilst Jesus Christ is undoubtedly a man, He is also and uniquely something else as well – He is nothing less than God, the Word made flesh, Who lived among us!
The First Song goes on to tell us how God the Father has ‘called His Son to serve the cause of right, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison and the dungeon from darkness’. In other words He has sent Him to be the Enlightener of Mankind, the great Liberator, and the ‘Freedom-giver’ of the human race.
If we listen carefully to those other three Servant Songs this week we learn that the Servant of God would be misunderstood, put on trial, and killed by those whom He had been sent to save. But we shall learn something else: something which just begins to make some sense of the suffering that is in this world – and I use the word ‘begins’ deliberately because it is no more than a beginning.
For (as St John says) God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it, but that the World He created might be saved through Him by His willing acceptance of the His death and passion in Holy Week.
That affords us a tiny clue that somehow, and in some supernatural way, whatever we ourselves have to suffer during our lifetime possesses a redemptive power – however dim or insignificant by comparison with that of our Saviour – if only we can only teach ourselves to look upon those sufferings as a reflection of what God allowed His Son, to go through during the first Holy Week as His Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ.
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