March 25, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Monday of Holy Week
Reading (Isaiah 42:1-7) Gospel (St. John 12:1-11)
As we begin Holy Week, the Church places before us the readings that are known as the Suffering Servant Songs. Today, tomorrow, Wednesday, and Friday we will have the four Suffering Servant Songs from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and then the fourth one comprises part of Isaiah 52 and 53). It is very important to pay attention to those songs because the prophet Isaiah was absolutely astounding in the type of prophecy that he gave. It was very precise, very specific. What Isaiah was prophesying is that a Messiah was going to come who would be the Servant of the Lord, but He would be a Suffering Servant – not the Messiah who was going to be the political Messiah who would kick the Romans out of the Holy Land and take over and become the king - but rather, one who would give his life and in so doing would become the king. Not the king that the people were looking for or expecting, but a King as we understand Him to be.
And so we need to be able to understand what God intended for this Servant of His, the one whom He said would not quench the smoldering wick and would not break the bruised reed. It is a wonderful thing for all of us with all of our sinfulness, our own brokenness and woundedness, that He is not going to look at us and say, "Because the flame is not flaming completely, because there is a bruise here, we need to just get rid of you." But instead, He nurses the flame back into complete health; He nurses the reed back.
But then, beyond that, God says of His Servant: "I will make you a covenant to the people." So, again, when we look at what we will celebrate on Friday, the pouring out of the Blood of Jesus, we celebrate it first on Thursday with the Last Supper, when Jesus takes the chalice and says the words, "This is My Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant." He tells us exactly what He is doing. Then, on Friday, He fulfills that covenant. In fact, He does not just fulfill it, He makes the covenant; He ratifies it. And that is what each one of us enters into.
And so, it is He, who - instead of breaking the bruised reed or putting out the smoldering wick - is the One, who in essence is snuffed out; He is the One who is broken in our place so that we could be healed, so that we could come back to fullness of life and, indeed, to more abundant life than what we had before. So as we listen to these Suffering Servant Songs this week, pay very close attention to what they say because they are the foreshadowing of what was to be, and they tell us very clearly about the events that happened 2,000 years ago.
And as we see the celebration that they had for Lazarus, we are able then to see ourselves, the ones that Jesus has brought back from the dead, from the death of sin, from the death of selfishness, from the death that deprives us of the life of God. He has given to us new life, not merely a resuscitation of natural life as Lazarus had, but something far, far greater: the life of God in our souls. When we rise from the dead it is not going to be to merely live this existence any longer, but it will be to new and everlasting life to which the Lord has called us because of the covenant which He ratified for us on [Good] Friday, because He is the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. He is the Messiah and the covenant gives us His life so that we will be able to live, no longer for ourselves, but for God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.