During Holy Week the church presents to us some of the most striking Old Testament Scripture passages, which point to and find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus.
The opening reading first refers to Isaiah himself but then further applies to any prophet who faces obstinacy. It finds its fullest expression in Jesus. It is Jesus who was given “a well-trained tongue” that he might “know how to speak a word to the weary that will rouse them.” It is Jesus whose ears the Father opened each morning to reveal his will of salvation so that Jesus may “not turn back” but rather go forward into his Passion with steadfastness.
Jesus manifests on his body Isaiah’s prophetic words, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” Isaiah’s words must have greatly comforted Jesus in knowing that he would “not be put to shame.”
Today’s psalm is recognizable as the psalm spoken from the lips of Jesus while he hung upon the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” The Gospels record this psalm as being the prayer of Jesus as he surveyed the gathering crowd below him. The church finds here the inspired description of the crucifixion. Entering into a spiritual communion with Jesus we too can pray with him from the cross and enter his thoughts, “All who see me scoff at me; they mock me with parted lips … they have pierced my hands and my feet … they divide my garments among them … and for my vesture they cast lots.”
Is this the prayer of one who feels abandoned by God? The close of the psalm shows that its full intention and direction is rather one of hope and confidence in God. Jesus will appear after the resurrection in the “midst of the assembly” of the frightened apostles and he will proclaim peace to them between God and humanity so that all may “revere” and “give glory” to God.
In the second reading the church lifts from Paul’s letter to the Philippians an ancient inspired Christian hymn that declares that Jesus was and is God, and that for us and our salvation he descended among us to become man.
The hymn follows the path of Jesus through the cross to the glory of the resurrection. It culminates in the proclamation that the name of Jesus, and thus Jesus himself, is to be understood and received as God himself to whom “every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This earliest of truths is at the heart of Christianity.
Questions for Reflection
1. What Scripture passages do I manifest in my life?
2. Do I allow feelings of abandonment to be hedged in with hope?
3. Do I confess Jesus as Lord and live as such?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.