16Apr Tuesday in Holy Week

16 April 2019.

1st Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

The life of God’s servant seems a failure, but it bears great fruit

Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.” And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Responsorial: Psalm 71

Response: I will sing of your salvation

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me. (R./)

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked. (R./)

For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength. (R./)

My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
Lord, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your marvellous deeds. (R./)

Gospel: John 13:21-33, 36-38

Jesus warns of betrayals; but those who stay faithful will follow him hereafter

After this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” Now nobody at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival;” or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

BIBLE

Mixture of sorrow and joy

Those Servant-Songs have a special power to re-awaken hope, in a downcast people. They apply not only to Jesus… but to all of us whom he has called.  Their mixture of joy and sorrow helps us make them our own.

(Is 49:1-6) He called me before I was born, while in my mother’s womb he named me.
In the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow
And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.”

We too have felt ourselves called. But often we feel we have laboured in vain. Attitudes in our society have changed, changed utterly. Perhaps a Terrible Beauty is born…  How to cope? How to interpret our present context, and adapt to it our sense of vocation? How to live out our days?

The paradox of his Passion

For the first disciples, the Passion of Jesus must have seemed like total failure. To his followers the inspiring movement he had led must now seem a great delusion. With his death, all their hopes based on him as their leader lay in ruins. The predictions he had made, about rising from the dead, were not taken seriously, either by Peter or the others (Mk 8:32).

Only later, after experiencing his risen presence, did they bring his predictions to mind. They came to realise that all Jesus’ sufferings were foretold in prophecy; and most clearly in the Isaiah poems about God’s loving Servant. Gradually it dawned on those early Christians that those prophetic powms found their full meaning in Jesus.

In him the promise was fulfilled, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” They now knew that his apparently futile efforts to renew and purify his people did not end with the crucifixion. Through the outpouring of his life, he achieved more than to “raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel.” It’s fruit was exactly what, in Saint John’s account, it was meant to be: for the sake of people everywhere (“I will draw all people to myself!”) The early church saw in Jesus the fulfilment of Isaiah 49:6, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

The Last Supper story interweaves two opposite strands: dire failure and ultimate triumph. Even among the twelve closes to him, Jesus has to deal with the painful fact that one would betray him, another would deny him, and the rest misunderstood what he tried to tell them before his Passion. The Evangelist knew that Jesus himself faced his supreme trial with a firm hope. He believed that through willingly accepting the Cross, “God will glorify him.” This is our hope too, as a Christian community who gather in his memory, prayerfully, this Holy Week.

Drawing close to him

What a variety of response to Jesus during the Las Supper! Judas slinks off into the dark, while the beloved disciple as reclined next to Jesus, literally “upon his chest.” In his opening chapter the evangelist described Jesus as “upon the chest of the Father” (or in the Father’s bosom). This beloved disciple seems to have a similarly close relationship with Jesus. He is an iconic figure, the kind of disciple we are all invited to become.

The beloved disciple is not given a definite name, so we are all invited to put our own name on him. We can identify with him and seek be like him. We are called to the same relationship with Jesus as the beloved disciple had. That is why Jesus goes on to say, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; remain in my love.” We can share in Our Lord’s special relationship with his Father in heaven. That is something to ponder, during this Holy Week.

This week, especially, we’re invited to renew our hope. Our calling is still valid, even in the confused situation of our broader society… The prophetic promise is still held out to us:

“The Lord says, (he who formed me in the womb to be his servant, that Israel might be gathered to him, … for my God is my strength), he says, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

 

 


 


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