For the three days of “normal Mass” this week before the Triduum begins, we are reading through the Suffering Servant passage from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. These 10 chapters encompass the vast majority of the prophesies concerning the Messiah, therefore we are reading them in preparation for the Easter Festivities. The prophesies are not that complicated to interpret but they do have a lot of wonderful imagery for understanding what the Messiah would do.
The first of these images is the sharpened sword. The sharpened sword represents the ability to separate. The sword cuts through the fluff of the world and the vagueness of our arguments to find the truth. The sword hacks away at anything that disguises or shrouds the truth revealing the truth. The second action of the sword is the separate the light from the dark. The sword cuts through the darkness of the world revealing the light. Didn’t Jesus do these things? Jesus cut through the fluff and the shroud that veiled the arguments of the Pharisees revealing the truth of the Law and the Prophets. As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is the light of the world, the one who the darkness cannot overcome.
The second image is a polished arrow. All you archers out there will appreciate this image. The polished arrow is that special arrow that the archer trusts to fly true and straight. Thus this arrow will pierce the heart of the enemy. The polished arrow prophesies that the messiah will pierce the hearts of the people and turn their hearts back to God. This also Jesus did. He pierced the heart of the Law and brought out the truth for the people to follow. Then he pierced the hearts of the people to turn their hearts back to God through his signs, wonders, and teachings. Jesus’ entire ministry is about bringing people back to fidelity to the Law and showing them the truth about God (him).
The final image used in this part of the prophesy involves light. The messiah is predicted to a great leader who will lead the people back to God and reinstate the kingship of the tribe of Judah. Isaiah spoke about this in the prophesy: “It is too little he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel. I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” The messiah as a great leader is supposed to bring light to the world and show the grandeur of God through his leadership. Therefore the one whom we are looking for should be the light of the world. And he is.
This prophesy can easily become a thing of legend or justification for Jesus as the Messiah and lose its personal touch. We are not divorced from this prophesy as though these things already happened and now we can move on. Instead, we should see ourselves in this reading. Are we not called to be Christ to the world? Were we not baptized as priest, prophet, and king? Then our role is much the same as the suffering servant of Isaiah. We are called to bring light into the world. We are called to cut through the empty arguments and fluffy language to reveal the truth. We are called to speak words that pierce the hearts of the people and turn them back to God. We are united with Christ in his ministry, which means this prophesy also concerns us.