To raise and restore – Tuesday of Holy Week – Isaiah 49:1-6/John 13:21-33,36-38

Read also based on the Gospel of today.

Chapters 42-53 of the book of Isaiah contain four Servant Songs. The first of these songs (42:1-4) that we read at mass yesterday, tells of the call of the Servant to “bring justice to the nations” (42:1). Today we read the second Song of the Servant of Yahweh. This song of the servant (49:1-6), further defines the Servant’s mission. The Servant is “to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the people of Israel” (49:6a). Furthermore, God says, “I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth” (49:6b). The prophet speaks in words that apply very suitably to Jesus. In Christian tradition we have come to apply these words to Jesus, the servant who suffered for us. Jesus has been called from all eternity to do this work of salvation. He is a “sharp-edged sword” and a “polished arrow”.

What can we draw this Holy Week from this text? It was God the father who called Jesus his son to mission; a mission of servant leadership. There is clarity of mission and purpose in this call. Jesus is called and given the tools necessary for our salvation. He is the sharp sword. The words of Jesus have power that can cut through the heart of any sinner. He is the polished arrow hidden in the Father’s quiver to be used at the appropriate time. (My hour has not yet come)

Yet there must have been times when the heart of our saviour reflected the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity.” The death of Jesus on the cross may have seemed so futile. He lived for others, he died for others but this life and death seemed to have no effect on Caiaphas, on Pilate, on Judas, on the Sanhedrin, on those who cried crucify him, on those who spat at him and mocked him, on the bad thief, on the Romans and the list goes on.

YET his death was not in vain. Jesus came to bring back ‘Jacob’ and ‘Israel’. John 1:12 tells us that to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God. The Holy Week is a time when we stand with Jacob and Israel, a time for restoration a time for redemption.

The text of today also focuses on another human reality. There is a tendency to give up when faced with constant attack in the face of good. Christ too faced this animosity all the while. The ones who attacked him were the religious leaders of his time, the big guns of the Jewish nation and not some small time Jewish columnist writing in the Jerusalem Post. So, one understands when on wishes to give up when the heart and soul of a person is attacked for doing good.

Christ came to call us to share in his humanity and divinity. We have to fight our human nature that sucks us into failure, into sin, into defeat. We have to push ourselves like Jesus to work for his kingdom. The reward for the labourer is not a holiday in Tahiti but rather the reward for the labourer is more work. (Matthew 13:12).

When our human frailty causes us to feel discouraged by the negativity that surrounds us, assure yourself that you are “called by God before you were born and named in your mother’s” womb by God himself to be his servant; words from today’s reading. This is not some frivolous task that God has handed to you but indeed a holy mandate to “raise and restore”

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