“This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Do these words sound vaguely familiar? They will be to those who read the pastor’s corner on a regular basis. Remember the words that were uttered by the voice that came from Heaven at Jesus’s baptism: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.” Lk 3,22
I find it incredible that in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), God the Father speaks only twice, and on both occasions, it is to do the same thing: to refer the reader to his Son, Jesus, as the fulfilment of the prophecy contained in the four Songs of the Suffering Servant in the prophet Isaiah.
“This is my Son, my Chosen…”, “with you I am well-pleased.” A Jewish reader, familiar with the Scriptures, cannot fail to recognize in these phrases an allusion to the first verse of the first of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant in the prophet Isaiah, where we read: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one, with whom I am well-pleased.” Is 42,1
Allow me yet again to point out the relevance of this allusion. By loosely quoting Is 42,1, the author of the gospel is in fact referring the reader to not only the first of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant, of which this verse is the first in that poem; the author is referring the reader to the four poems in Isaiah which are traditionally referred to as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. In so doing, the author is telling us that Jesus, of whom and to whom these words are spoken, is the fulfilment of the texts to which he refers us. In plain language, he is telling us, “Go to those texts, and you will understand the vocation and the destiny to which God the Father has called his son, this man Jesus who stands before you.”
The person of Jesus, his mission, his fate, and the consequence of his violent fate – the forgiveness of all sins of all time – are laid out in beautiful, vivid terms in these four poems. His uncompromising obedience to the Father, his ministry of healing and preaching, his violent death, and the fact that the Father will deem that violent end as the necessary and sufficient remedy to the disobedience of humankind in all ages – it’s all there, in those four relatively brief, beautiful poems.
Which is why, yet again, I have made these poems available to you. You will find copies of them, as always, on the white rack in the foyer, to the left, as you leave the church. Allow me yet again to give you an alternative way to access these texts. Use your search-engine to go to the website of USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). Click on “Bible”. A menu will open. Click on “Books of the Bible”. In the list of books of the Old Testament, click on “Isaiah”. Then simply click on the chapter numbers, 42, 49, 50 (verses 4 and following), and 52 (starting at verse 13). There you will find the text of these four poems.
We are referred to these texts by none other than God the Father. All the more reason to take the reference seriously, and to take these texts seriously. I sincerely hope that as a part of your Lenten programme, you will take the time to look up and read these poems. They have the potential to vastly enhance your perception of Jesus, and your familiarity with him, your love of him. Simply because the person that is presented in these four poems is a holy Servant of God that you simply can’t not love.
By the grace of God, as we approach Easter, may we all, through the reading of these texts, or through any other means, grow in our familiarity with, and attachment to Jesus, the Holy Servant of God.