As I was writing on Judas yesterday, I will let the Gospel (https://universalis.com/mass.htm) speak through Jan’s illustration, and will turn our attention to the first reading.
Here, we meet the Suffering Servant, an enigmatic figure described in the Book of the prophet Isaiah. This Book has been of immense importance in the Tradition of the Church; it has been often referred to as the Fifth Gospel. Its role in the sacred liturgy is prominent and it is read throughout the Sundays of Advent, on each Christmas Mass, on several Sundays during Ordinary Time, on Palm Sunday, the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. Whether by direct attribution or by mere allusion, this book stands behind much of the New Testament imagery.
Who is this Suffering Servant? This question is never directly answered but we can find details in each of the oracles; they all point at Our Lord. His mission is one of whom the Lord has chosen, in whom He is well pleased and upon whom His spirit rests, who comes to establish justice The Suffering Servant himself acknowledges this mission, announcing the salvation of Israel as well as the deliverance of all nations. His mission, however, depends on God and on his faithfulness to his call which will lead to his glorification. The Servant laments the cruelty inflicted upon him; yet, he confesses his faith in God, despite having been apparently abandoned to his enemies.
Turning to the gospels, we learn of Jesus' awareness of His identity as the Suffering Servant. What Jesus was trying to say about being both the Suffering Servant and the Son of Man has been first recognized in one of the oldest writings contained in the New Testament, St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, where in 15:3 he quotes a credal formula which he himself had already received: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures".
The phrase "according to the scriptures" refers specifically to Isaiah; after all, the gospels were not yet written.
By Fr Tomas
Illustration by Jan Hearn ©