Introducing The Servant

Do you know the servant songs of Isaiah? They are all found in the second part of the book: 42:1-7, 49:1-6, 50:4-10, and 52:13-53:12.

Without getting into Biblical exegesis and study (you can get that competently elsewhere) the assignment of these four passages in the Roman Lectionary is notable. The lector reads them all during Holy Week, but the first two appear in the Roman cycle A. Song 1 will be read at Mass this weekend; Song 2 the next.

I appreciate the subtlety of the first two servant songs marking the start of the public ministry of Jesus. Here’s tonight’s/tomorrow’s reading:

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Talk about a powerful evangelization: someone who brings justice without raising the voice. If the longing God has put into peoples’ hearts can be believed (and the prophet communicates the coastlands–the Gentiles or non-believers are just waiting to hear) then the task of spreading the Gospel should be simple enough.

Centuries before Jesus, the notion was planted that God’s ultimate goal was worldwide salvation. Advocates of apologism and catechism should take note: the kind of preaching the Father has in mind is justice. It’s mentioned twice in this song. The particulars mentioned here will float both ways in the world: they could be literal healings and freeings. But they also give a glimpse as to God’s own approach to faith and belief: the true servant approaches evangelization as a mechanism of giving people greater freedom, not greater burden.

Something to keep in mind as the Spirit descends in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice is heard. Adoration of Christ, be we shepherds, magi, or the Forerunner, is the starting point. Recognition is just the beginning.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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