“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; . . .” Isaiah 42:1-2
Holy Week is my favorite time of the liturgical year. I have many childhood memories of this special week that ends with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As each year has passed, I have gained a deeper understanding of the readings of this sacred week. This year is not an exception.
The reading from Isaiah is the beginning of the four Servant Songs. This is a description of the one who is going to bring justice and freedom to all nations. Isaiah calls him a “servant” not a king. Not a ruler. Not a master. A servant. One who looks to the needs of others before their own. This leader is also one who is focused on justice and peace. Not your normal every day leader.
The servant theme continues in the reading from the Gospel of John. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead and Martha is again serving and Mary is at the feet of Jesus. They are hosting a dinner for Jesus and this time Martha is serving the meal without complaining about what Mary is doing. She may be pondering the raising of her brother from the dead. This time the focus is on Mary. She is at Jesus’ feet again only she is not listening to what Jesus is saying but anointing his feet. Does she realize who he is? It is Judas who is complaining this time about the waste of the costly nard. He really wants to sell it for his own pocket. Jesus speaks prophetically about the anointing of his own body on the day of his burial as a rebuke to Judas’ chastisement.
In a few days we will read the Gospel of John again and at the Last Supper it will be Jesus who is washing the feet of Peter. In Jesus’ time, the washing of feet was left to the lowest ranking servant in the house. Interesting that Mary, a woman is chastised for doing this for Jesus and then Jesus hears Peter’s refusal of the washing of his own feet. Mary, a woman, who in Jesus’ time had no rights or privileges sitting at a place of a lowly servant. No one complained that she was sitting at Jesus’ feet. It was an act of love and Jesus knew her intention. Did Jesus ponder this action and then take it upon himself to do as she did? To wash Peter’s feet in a loving manner but elevating it, changing it, as he had to many of the other traditions of the time. Raising this simple disgusting action of a servant to mean something deeper for the Apostles. A simple action in the scriptures that has certainly struck me enough to spend some time pondering on it.
What simple action in your every day life has changed over the past year to an action of love?
May you have a blessed Holy Week and Triduum.
Linda Schork is a theology teacher at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky