The Pastoral Care Lectionary includes two Good Friday readings. Why would the Church have made that choice? When might we utilize that option?
Let’s get into the reading, first God speaks:
See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
Even as many were amazed at him,
so marred was his look beyond human semblance
and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man,
so shall he startle many nations,
because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.
And the prophet speaks:
Who would believe what we have heard?
To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up like a sapling before him,
like a shoot from the parched earth;
there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him,
nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that 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 his own way;
but the Lord laid upon him
the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the Lord was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.
God finishes up:
If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.
The ancients struggled with the notion of suffering. Religious people, pagans, Jews, non-religious people. The age-old question is simply this: what is the meaning of suffering? And for the sick person: why do I suffer?
The conquests, the Exile–these were catastrophic to Israel. Why did they suffer? Certainly not everyone was unfaithful to God. Tales of the Exile relate stories of people who kept faith in spite of the international situation. They were not directly at fault, but they suffered the consequences. In our mortal life, things happen. We must engage with our infirmities and those of our loved ones. Somewhere, there’s meaning.
It’s a cliché, but the Catholic go-to catchphrase is “offer it up.” Like a sacrifice. This passage predates Christ by about five centuries. It is applied as a prophecy of Christ by Christians, but this isn’t the only interpretation. It is also a reflection on the search for meaning.
We try our best to unite ourselves to Jesus, and in the disciple’s life, we strive to imitate.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.