Reconciliation Lectionary: Isaiah 53:4-6

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe longer version of this reading, verses 1 through 12, is given at number 117 in the Rite of Penance, a long middle section of the ritual book with many, many options for readings. You might recognize the passage as the lead-off for the Good Friday Liturgy of the Word.

Often overlooked is chapter IV, in which the Rite gives “various texts used in the celebration,” including these three powerful verses (Cf. RP 72) which are recommended for the reconciliation of a single penitent. Let’s read:

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
While we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins.
Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following our own way;
But the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

I confess a difficulty with the traditional image that our sins had a physical effect on the Lord way back in time. Or that God somehow has a bodily suffering on par with a feeling if we were tortured. As a parent, I can certainly relate with the emotional and spiritual pain of seeing one’s child go astray. To the question: does God lament our sins? The answer is: I believe God does.

This passage is excerpted from the fourth suffering servant song of Isaiah, in which God’s faithful one is lifted up in persecution for loyalty to the Father. We see it so often in our own world: the just are made scapegoats for the proud, the powerful, and the well-connected. The engines of media, mainstream and pajama and others, are set in motion against those who offend.

Given that, I wonder for whom this reading is best applied. The person who needs to know that God laments our sins? Or the persecutors in the midst of our faith communities, people ripping and tearing at the Body of Christ from within?

Maybe a communal service could benefit from this reading, possibly the longer version at RP 117, especially if Holy Week is used as an option for form II. Or maybe some passages are better left to the Triduum. What do you think?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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