During the first days of Holy Week, we are directed to the Book of Isaiah the Prophet and his meditations on the Suffering Servant theme. These are inspiring readings which we hear throughout the year yet are more lively as we approach Holy Thursday and Good Friday. This Suffering Servant offers his own life for others. The Suffering Servant represents the finest qualities of one who fulfills the will of God. Sometimes this Suffering Servant is the community of Israel; at other times the Suffering Servant is a particular individual. The Church has always applied this theme and the characters of the Suffering Servant to Jesus Christ.
Jesus is our Servant, who knelt down and washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Jesus comes to bring peace, not loud noises and upheaval. He does not exploit the weak in a show of power but empowers the weak by bringing truth, wisdom and healing. Jesus himself was not weak and did not act cowardly in the face of suffering and death. In his compassion and gentleness, in his willingness to forgive, there was strength, an inner power to reject violence and retribution. "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). What we might see as helplessness and failure, God saw as love and resurrection.
During this Holy Week let us remember that the work of God’s Servant is not finished. The work of God continues in us as servants, at times as suffering servants. We are not here this week to be spectators, even grateful spectators for what the Suffering Servant has accomplished for us. Unfortunate are we if we become like Judas, swayed by greed and self-preservation. We are invited to continue (through our Baptism and the grace of God) the Servant’s work which God inaugurated through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are servants attentive to the needs of our brothers and sisters, and, if necessary, willing to suffer for the sake of love and justice.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.