This blog uses the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Isaiah 42: 1-7
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have sent my spirit upon him, he will bring fair judgement to the nations.
2 He does not cry out or raise his voice, his voice is not heard in the street;
3 he does not break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick. Faithfully he presents fair judgement;
4 he will not grow faint, he will not be crushed until he has established fair judgement on earth, and the coasts and islands are waiting for his instruction.
5 Thus says God, who created the heavens and spread them out, who hammered into shape the earth and what comes from it, who gave breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it:
6 I, the Lord, have called you in saving justice, I have grasped you by the hand and shaped you; I have made you a covenant of the people and light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.
In the so-called “servant songs” of the second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55) God’s servant is represented as a person, but clearly stands for the corporate identity of Israel, or at least, of Israel as the prophet believes she is called to be. The Christian church has applied the songs to Jesus, who may have modeled his ministry on them. In this beautiful poem the emphasis is first of all on nature of the spirit’s inspiration which leads the servant to announce true justice, while behaving without demagoguery or the use of crushing power. The creator God shapes, and takes the hand of, the servant as once he took the hand of Eve, The servant is the covenant between God and the people, an incarnation of God’s goodness and the people’s response. The servant will liberate those who have become so accustomed to the darkness of exile that they can see nothing else. Their eyes will be opened and they will be set free.
The gospel writers saw in these words a description of Jesus’ ministry and by implication, a blueprint for the ministry of his disciples, who are called to establish fair judgment, open blind eyes and liberate the captives.
Working to that blueprint might be better than all the holy week services in the world.
Gospel, John 12:1-11
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead.
2 They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table.
3 Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was filled with the scent of the ointment.
4 Then Judas Iscariot — one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him-said,
5 ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’
6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contents.
7 So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; let her keep it for the day of my burial.
8 You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’
9 Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.
10 Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well,
11 since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.
The best commentary on this is Sidney Carter’s song, Judas and Mary, which includes the lines:
“Said Judas to Mary, now think of the poor. This ointment it could have been sold.
And think of the blankets and think of the bread, you could by with the silver and gold.
Said Jesus to Mary, “Your love is so deep, today you may do as you will;
Tomorrow they say I am going away, but my body I leave with you still.
The poor of the world are my body, he said, to the end of the world it shall be;
The bread and the blankets you give to the poor, you will find you have given to me
My body shall hang on the cross of the world, tomorrow, he said, and today;
And Martha and Mary will find me again, and wash all my sorrow away.”