As I approach my 60th birthday I know I’m getting older because I’ve started telling younger people about The Good Old Days, when everything seemed so much better, when life was less complicated, and problems had simple solutions.
The people who first heard the words in today’s first reading had a very good reason to wish for their own “good old days.” They were exiled in Babylon, and word had just come through that the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Even if they could go home, that homeland had become a desolate wasteland with very little to offer them.
During Holy Week, we hear Isaiah’s prophecies about a “servant of God” whose labours and sufferings will bring Israel to a better place. They tell us that the restoration this Suffering Servant would bring about wasn’t just a return to the good old days. God had more in store for his people than a nostalgic re-living of the past. They were destined to become a “covenant” to all the people of the earth, not just to live peaceably in their own quiet little world. Israel would have a much wider mission and a purpose.
Isaiah’s words about the Suffering Servant can sound very familiar to us, especially as we contemplate how Our Lord fulfilled them in his passion and death. But Our Lord suffered and died so that we could find the forgiveness, the grace, and the hope to get out and to do our part in establishing justice and peace on the earth.
As we begin our journey through Holy Week we should take some time to reflect on what God is calling us to do with our lives. How has God called us to be agents of peace and reconciliation? How can our witness to the joy of the resurrection change not only our lives but the lives of the people around us? It can sound a bit too optimistic to believe when we say the words out loud, but we really can make a difference in this world—if only we let the Holy Spirit take charge. Our Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection are meant to do more than restore us to the “good old days.” They are meant to empower us to create the “even better days” that lie ahead.