If we excerpt one verse in the middle of today’s reading from Isaiah, we could think that the passage would be more appropriate to the Advent-Christmas cycle. The Servant of the Lord is conscious of being called from birth, of being named in the womb, of being destined to show forth the glory of God. God’s promise to the Servant, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth,” reminds us of Simeon’s proclamation on the occasion of the presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
But there is that one verse that situates us firmly in Passiontide: “I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly spent my strength.” The one who speaks these words knows what it is to set out inspired by a glorious mission, to devote one’s self diligently to fulfilling it, only to experience nothing but failure, frustration and futility. Strangely though, these dark emotions are being felt not by one who despairs but by one with unbounded confidence. Even while all seems hopeless, God’s mighty purposes are being achieved through the apparently useless Servant.
The situation of Jesus in the Gospel passage parallels that of Isaiah’s suffering Servant. He faces betrayal and abandonment. He refuses to accept comfort from Peter’s assurance of loyalty. No, the worst will happen. He will drink the cup. Yet this darkest of hours is THE HOUR, the hour that sees “the Son of Man glorified and God glorified in Him.”
Sister Mary O’Brien, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Sisters’ community in Union City. NJ.
- Passion Sunday (thepassionists.org)