Suffering Servant

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from: 

We’ve seen so many poignant images on the news in the past few weeks, images of people suffering, of hospital medical staff in need, and of grieving families.  In the midst of this, 10 days ago, our Pope gave a powerful address and extraordinary blessing to the world. It is the image of this humble man standing alone in an enormous but empty St. Peter’s Square that I shall remember as well.  Most meaningful was his message.  As he called us to faith, not fear, he made this statement:

We can look to so many exemplary companions on the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives.  This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people -- …who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time:  doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves….Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.”

Todays’ readings are about being a servant.  First, Isaiah prophesizes about a suffering servant who was called from birth to glorify God and become a light to all the nations.  And in our gospel, we see examples of two servants called by Jesus himself:  Judas and Peter.  Judas, fails the task of being a servant, fails to be faithful, and fails to repent.  Peter also fails his call to serve faithfully, but he repents and turns his life around again.

The selfishness of both men is in sharp contrast to Jesus who gives himself unselfishly at the Last Supper.  Jesus is the ultimate servant/leader – washing the feet of his disciples, dying on the cross, and rising in glory to honor God.

Jesus, Our Lord, as servant/leader is what we celebrate this Holy Week.  Our call to be a servant/leader is what we seriously reflect on again this Holy Week.

It’s difficult to think of serving others while we are on this ‘stay at home order’, but staying home, too, is a loving form of service to the greater community and common good.  Each way we are sacrificing to love others by self-isolating, tending to families at home, honoring health care workers and first responders, and avoiding public places, yes, even church, is an expression of being servants to others now and loving God unselfishly.

The essence of love is sacrifice and doing what we can for the benefit of others.  During this holiest of weeks, we remember the ultimate sacrifice of Christ and we unite our sacrifices with his.  And, most importantly, we do this with the attitude of Christ, who always placed the needs of others first.