John 13:21-33, 36-38
There is an old story about a golfer who answers a phone and hears a woman speak about several expensive purchases and then asks him if it is all right with him. He responds that the purchases are fine with him and then asks the men around him if they know whose phone this is. In addition to a good chuckle, the story gives us a lesson about hearing a variety of voices about us and the importance of our hearing and responding to the important and appropriate voices out of the great many that vie for our attention in life.
As we wade into our celebration of Holy Week, many voices are being heard. Today’s scripture has us hearing and listening to voices out of the darkness. The Suffering Servant of Yahweh described for us today in Isaiah’s reading hears voices from the dark of the womb. It is the voice of the Lord God calling Him by name and handing over to Him a mission to become a light to the nations. The Suffering Servant was to be the beacon of divine glory in the world. Great hope and wonder together with the gift of salvation was to find its way into the world through Him. Then other voices began to crowd the divine voice and threatened to drown out God’s call entirely. Voices that said he was toiling in vain. Voices that pulled the Servant down in frustration and dismay. Voices which breathed forth hostility and antagonism. Voices which tempted Him to give up, abandon His mission, and go His own way.
In the gospel, Jesus finds Himself hearing voices in the darkness as well – “It was night” and “…before the cock crows…” Out of the darkness comes the voices of betrayal, first of Judas and then of Peter. We can only imagine the reaction of the Lord within His heart when those voices became clear in His ears. Up to that moment, the voices had been positive, affirming, hopeful and trusting – “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. These voices revealed that everything was going in the right direction. These were voices spoken in the light. These were voices which could be trusted and embraced. Or were they? The voices of the light are drowned out by those of the darkness – “What you are going to do, do quickly” and “…you will deny me three times.” Rejection, betrayal, disappointment, hurt, deep sadness – these are the voices of the night. These are the voices Jesus hears in today’s gospel. At the same time, Jesus amplifies the voice of light in the midst of the dark voices – “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”
In both Isaiah and John’s gospel today, we are offered a profound understanding of the voices in our own lives. We share with the Servant and with Jesus the wonder of voices of light which invite us to wade into life with encouragement, with affirmation, with positive outlooks, with trusting hearts for God and one another. Like them, we received a mission through our birth in baptism to be God’s voice in our world, to be a beacon of divine light for our pathways, to be the amplifier in our Church and our world of the joy of God’s salvation for us. At the same time, we are subject to the voices out of the darkness in our lives. Like the Servant and like Jesus, we run into voices of disappointment and betrayal in the relationships of life, in our circumstances of time and place, in the pressures and weights which fall upon us sometimes through our own doing and sometimes through no fault of our own. These voices invite us to become cynical, judgmental, or sour toward God, a person, or groups of people. These voices recommend that we give up on our baptismal mission and look out only for ourselves. These voices attempt to deafen us to the voices from the light leaving us to live and listen in the dark of night.
Thanks be to God, the Servant and the Lord Jesus in today’s scripture teach us to turn away from the voices of the night and cling to the voices spoken in the light. Like them, we are invited to focus our attention on the divine voice in our lives and respond to that divine call even in the midst of disappointment, possible betrayal and mistrust. Like them, we will find our way through any trials or difficulties to discover that it is precisely because of those trials that we recognize the ever brighter promise, hope and glory that comes with faithfulness to our baptismal mission.
On this Tuesday of Holy Week, we are ever grateful that the Lord Jesus heard the call to make an expensive purchase – salvation for all through the blood of His Cross. By God’s love this has been done, and it is wonderful n our eyes.
Fr. Richard Burke, CP, is a member of St. Paul of the Cross Province. He lives at St. Ann’s Monastery in Scranton, Pennsylvania.