As we approach the end of the liturgical year, we approach the time of Jesus’ passion in our continuous reading of the gospel of Mark. Today’s gospel contains the first of three predictions of his passion and resurrection by Jesus in the gospel of Mark. “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Mk 8,31
The liturgy has appropriately prefaced this gospel with the third of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant of which I have spoken previously. Let me point out that I have prepared extra copies of the Songs of the Suffering Servant that you will find on the rack in the foyer. Let me also remind you of the reason why you should read these songs: they are an especially powerful revelation of Jesus, the man who walked the earth, of the simple manhood that is veiled in the gospels because of the evangelists’ tendency to emphasize his divinity, such that his true manhood is lost upon us. As a result, it is difficult for us to truly perceive him as one of us, sharing in all things but sin, our human condition. The Songs of the Suffering Servant help enormously in remedying this tendency to view him more as divine than as human, when we rely only on the New Testament as a revelation of just who he was.
In addition, today’s liturgy features the first half of Psalm 116, an incredibly beautiful psalm which speaks of the love and the faith of God’s servant, of his agony, of his redemption, and of his jubilant thanksgiving. This psalm is used for all the feasts and solemnities of martyrs. Also, in our former Dominican liturgy of the eucharist, the priest would say the words of this psalm just prior to celebrating the eucharistic prayer: “How shall I thank the Lord for his goodness to me? I will raise up the cup of salvation. I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” Psalm 116,12-14.17.18 A very beautiful summary of what the eucharistic prayer is all about. This psalm is so central to the Church’s prayer that I have made it available to you as well, on the same rack on which you will find the Songs of the Suffering Servant, under the title “The Martyrs’ Psalm”.
By the grace of God, may you find inspiration in the Songs of the Suffering Servant, and in the Martyrs’ Psalm.