Gospel Reflection for 21st of October:
The Suffering Servant
The first reading this Sunday is taken from the Prophet Isaiah. It is normally read on Good Friday during the Passion Liturgy. It is often called the ‘Suffering Servant.’
In it’s full version is describes the one who despite terrible suffering, abuse and betrayal remains loyal and faithful to God. By the time of Jesus, this reading was seen to be a description of Jesus himself as he entered into his own time of passion and suffering.
The people had been waiting for generations for the long awaited Messiah, the chosen one of God.
He would establish the promised Kingdom of God. The earthly empires would be overtaken by God’s Kingdom and a new world order would be established. However, God was not about to replace one political system with just another one!
We recall that when Pilate questioned Jesus about his origins and mission, Jesus replied that his Kingdom was not an earthly one created by human hands. The Kingdom that Jesus was to create was not one based on power, force, might or with the help of any army. It would be an altogether different kind of kingdom. It would be based and built upon the values of peace, justice, forgiveness, mercy, compassion and tenderness.
In the gospel, James and John approach Jesus quietly. They have business proposal for him. The two of them want special and favoured treatment; they want a better deal for themselves. They want Jesus to do them a favour! They want first class seats either side of Jesus.
Like many others, they still see Jesus as some sort of powerful earthly ruler of the Jewish people. He asks them if they are ready and willing to drink the cup he will later drink himself. They say they are ready for this, but do they honestly understand and appreciate what they are asking? Probably not! When the others hear this conversation, they all became very angry with each other.
Jesus can’t be any clearer when he tells them us today that to be his follower and disciples is not about power, influence and prestige; it the very opposite. To be a follower of Jesus is to follow the example of the slave and the Suffering Servant.
It seems that right up until he died, his closest friends still didn’t understand what he was talking about, so he showed them. He took the place of the slave, he washed their feet and told them to the same. He reminded them that Son of Man came to serve, not to be served.
If we want to call ourselves his followers and Christians, we are called, invited and challenged to do the same whenever and wherever we can. We are called to serve others, not to be served by others.
As Jesus said to his disciples, he says the same us today; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among must be slave to all.
This is the example of the Suffering Servant. This is the life Jesus lead. These are values of the gospel and the Kingdom we are asked to follow.
As Pope Francis said recently,
“Are you in position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here.