Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Little Something Extra...Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

The Servant

In today's First Reading from Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7, we read a portion of the first of Isaiah's four “Servant Songs.” These songs prophesy the mysterious “Suffering Servant” whom God will send on a mission to the world. 

Scholars have long questioned just who this Servant is, and because prophecy works on several levels, there are a number of possibilities. The Servant might be the prophet Isaiah himself, for he certainly had a mission. He might be a king of Judah. He might be a personification of Israel as a nation. He might be the future Messiah. He might even be a combination of any or all of these, for prophecies can be fulfilled in different ways at different times. The New Testament, of course, identifies the Servant with Jesus, but that does not diminish the prophecy's complexity.

Our reading today gives us some important information about the Servant. God, speaking through Isaiah, says that the Servant is someone He upholds and someone in whom He delights. God has put His spirit on this Servant and sent him on a mission. The Servant will bring forth justice, not just for the Israelites but for the nations. 

How will he bring forth justice? His method will be gentle, quiet, mild, meek, and compassionate. He will not go around shouting in the streets. He will not assume a harsh tone that cuts people down. Smoldering wicks and bruised reeds are safe with him. He will not smother those who are depressed and weak. He will not break those who are hurting and sinful. But he will bring justice to all who wait for him, even to the ends of the earth. 

In the middle of the reading, God begins to speak directly to the Servant. He says, 

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. 

God has called the Servant so that justice may triumph. He holds him by the hand, sustaining him and giving him power to fulfill his mission. God has formed the Servant and watches over him, guarding and preserving him. 

Further, God has set the Servant as a covenant for the people and a light for the nations. The Servant will be a new covenant, a new bond of self-giving love between God and humanity. He will shine God's light to all people, Israelite and Gentile alike. As a covenant and a light, the Servant will open the eyes of the blind, free prisoners, and lift those in darkness up into the light. 

Today on this Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, the Church invites us to reflect on the Servant prophesied in Isaiah. In doing so, we should ponder some significant questions.

1. Why is this reading included on this feast day? 
2. How does Jesus fulfill the prophecy of the Servant? 
3. How are we called to imitate the Servant in our own lives? 

Lord, on this feast of Your baptism, please give us the compassionate and gentleness of the Servant. Please help us recognize both our own mission and others' needs. May we always keep the covenant we have made with You at our own baptism and shine Your light to the world. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment