In his Suffering Servant narratives the prophet Isaiah foretells in amazing detail the way Our Lord would conduct his life, especially during his Passion. The passage we heard in the first reading paints a remarkably vivid picture of Our Lord’s endurance and lonely struggle to fulfil his mission in a world that was hostile to him and everything he stood for.
Suffering and endurance in God’s name were not unique to Jesus. The Suffering Servant narratives describe also the hardships endured by many of the Judges and Prophets who proclaimed the word of God to Israel. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and many others suffered at the hands of their own people. Jeremiah was thrown into an abandoned cistern where it was hoped he would starve to death. He was eventually rescued but later he was kidnapped and taken to Egypt against his will. Elijah was under constant a threat of execution by Queen Jezebel. Even Ezekiel—living with his fellow Jews as an exile in Babylon—was considered an outcast.
What stands out in Our Lord’s sufferings in contrast to these prophets is his willing submission to such abuse. Our Lord freely chose to give his life in order to win our freedom. He foresaw the mistreatment, torture, and death that would come his way, and he was willing to endure that for our sakes. Fully human, capable of physical and emotional pain, Our Lord submitted himself to his persecutors. The innocent died for the guilty; the faithful for the unfaithful. This was the greatest act of love the world has ever known.
Tomorrow we begin the Paschal Triduum, the great three-day commemoration of our redemption. During this time we recall the suffering by which Our Lord offered us a way back to God from the exile of disobedience and sin. In the liturgy we will relive the drama of Our Lord’s final hours and the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. And so let us spend, at least a little time today, meditating upon the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord, the Suffering Servant, who freely offered himself up for our salvation.