Today’s Scripture Reading
Isaiah 49:1-6, Psalm 71:1-6, 15, 17 John 13:21-33, 36-38
We are in the midst of Holy Week. This week contains the events that are the core of our faith. Jesus goes to Jerusalem to announce the coming of God’s reign and the authorities are so challenged by him that they successfully organize his death on the cross. What looked like the end of Jesus turned out to be the beginning of God’s reign, where life triumphs over death.
However, the story of Holy Week is more than a retelling of an historical event. It is God trying to tell us something about what God wants. So let’s begin with the first reading which is part of the scriptural groundwork for the events of Holy Week. Today’s reading from Isaiah is the second of four descriptions of the servant of God. We hear Isaiah tell of the servant being called from the womb from the very beginning of life, about being formed as a weapon of God, about calling Israel back to God, about toiling in vain but then with God as his strength being a light for the world. As Christians we have come to apply all this to Jesus as the ideal servant of God. That certainly is a valid understanding. However, I want you to notice that this section is written in the first person with only the end being the voice of God. What I want you to consider is that the wording makes it easy to apply what is said to the reader, to each of us. The reading says, “The Lord called me.” We need to take that seriously, each one of us. We are the ones who God has honed into a sharp edged sword and protected so we could bring distant peoples back to God. We have been made glorious in the sight of the Lord and God is our strength. The scriptures always tell us what God wants for each of us. Jesus is the perfect example of what Isaiah is describing but it didn’t end with Jesus. If it had we wouldn’t be believers today. We are the people of far distant lands. From Jerusalem, Massachusetts is pretty much the end of the earth. Jesus was only the first of the servants of God, we need to continue what has been passed on to us. We need to hear Isaiah and John as a personal message directed at us.
So if we accept that Isaiah is calling us to be a light to the nations and continue to spread God’s salvation what can we take from today’s Gospel? I think it offers a view of the challenge of following Jesus. Judas and Peter have both been with Jesus as part of his inner circle of Twelve closest supporters. Individuals Jesus called personally, just like God has called each us to believe in Jesus. Yet now when Jesus is in Jerusalem to confront the seat of Jewish faith and to call them to reform, Judas can’t go along. He decides to abandon Jesus. He chooses another path. Peter on the other hand when confronted with the challenge of an unknown journey says he is ready for anything, even death to support Jesus.
I think we face these kinds of decisions all the time in our lives. We’re not sitting in a room with Jesus as he eats with us but we come to be fed by him and believe he shows us the way to a better life. The question is, can we be faithful, will we stay the course as events present themselves in our lives. We probably aren’t going to turn our backs on Jesus as Judas did. But it may be hard to remember that grand enthusiastic acts aren’t the answer either. Everyday decisions at home and at work may say more about the kind of person we are. We know Peter denied Jesus three times the same night he promised to fight to the death for him. So we may not always follow through as we would like but Peter is a great example of the ability to accept forgiveness and stay the course. We need not give up because at times we fail. Rather we should take to heart what Isaiah says, “Though I thought I have toiled in vain, and for nothing, spent my strength … I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord and God is now my strength.” We need to consider that we were made from the beginning to be servants of God, precious in God’s sight, formed and called by God. Can we accept God’s call? Can we see ourselves as precious and will we say, “Yes, I’ll try.”