Is 49:1-6; Ps 71:1-6, 15,16; Jn 13:21-33,36-38
“From my mother’s womb you are my strength.”
In a shame based social organization, it is death to have your dignity publicly denied. Today’s responsorial psalm reflects upon the profound relationship between the Lord Jesus and his Father. It is his confidence in the Father’s love and care that enables Jesus to sing of his salvation. As the events of Holy Week quickly unfold we need to sing—deep within our hearts and loud upon our lips. We need to sing with the Faithful Servant-Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, “In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.” It is the justice of God that will rescue us, deliver us from all the accusations of the crowd. The LORD inclines his ear and inclines his heart to save us, to save us in history and in eternity. Though few may know the facts behind the injustice we encounter in life, the LORD knows the heart and his judgment is eternal. From the very beginning of our lives, while we were yet in our mother’s womb, our strength is the LORD. Even from our birth when we appeared upon the face of the earth, vulnerable and completely dependant upon those around us. In their love for us we have already come to know the costly love of the Father in his precious gift of Christ through the hovering and penetrating Holy Spirit. From these earliest days of life in the Church we have declared the justice of the LORD and witnessed to his mighty deeds of saving love. We continue to be taught, Holy Week after Holy Week, the wondrous deeds of God for us his needy children, faithless and ruthless though we may be. The Servant of the LORD is called and named from his mother’s womb, and as we sing his song, we too remember our call and respond with the fresh love of our rebirth. The Lord Jesus continues to reveal the love and lack of love among those at table fellowship with him before his death.
The glory of the LORD is revealed in his hidden but faithful Servant. This faithful servant cries out to the islands and all distant peoples. He makes public the very personal and hidden voice of the LORD who proclaimed, “You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.” This glory is to be seen in the polished arrow, Jesus, who strikes at the very heart of each child of God. The Lord’s own word of power speaks the truth of boundless love in the heart of those captive and confused by the lies and darkness in which they are caught and paralyzed. This same glory is to be seen in the sharp-edged sword, Jesus, who cuts between the bone and the marrow. The Lord’s own word of truth speaks to a weak and slothful heart in those who are lost and satiated with the burden of the guilt and gloom in which they have build their houses on sand. Even when the LORD’s Servant thought that he had toiled in vain and for nothing spent all his strength. Even when the Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem and sweat blood in the Garden, still he prayed. In this faith filled prayer the Lord Jesus came to know the strength of the LORD and his great purpose in all suffering. This is good news for us, too, who continue to make up in our own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of the Body of Christ. The Lord Jesus is to raise up all the tribes of Jacob and all the survivors of Israel. Indeed, the whole world is to be illuminated by the light of Christ that God’s salvation might reach through us, the Body of Christ, to the very ends of the earth.
This whole week seems to be spent in table fellowship. Moving from the table at Bethany among his friends, the Lord Jesus is now at table with his closest disciples for the great feast of God’s faithful and liberating love. Again three friends are mentioned, one friend, the Beloved Disciple, remains faithful. One denies even knowing him and the other hands him over to his enemies. These three are engaged with the Lord Jesus at table that night. Saint Peter is upset that anyone there at that Last Supper could even consider betraying the Lord Jesus. Saint Peter gives Saint John the signal to find out about whom the Lord is speaking. After getting close to the very heart of the Lord Jesus, Saint John asks the question everyone wants to ask, “Master, who is it?” The Lord Jesus reveals in sharing the morsel with Judas what he hides from the rest of the disciples. To Judas the Lord Jesus commands: “What you are going to do, do quickly.” If you stay around any longer, the Lord seems to say, you may be discouraged and give up your resolve. After his betrayer leaves the Lord Jesus rejoices in the Father and reveals the source of his joy to the other disciples. He is going away; he will no longer be with them. Saint Peter cannot bear this burden; he cries out, “Master, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Again the Lord Jesus reveals the truth at table fellowship, he predicts that Saint Peter will deny him three times before the cock crows. Table fellowship is that place where the true motives of the heart are revealed. The friends of the Lord Jesus are weak and unfaithful, but Jesus, the friend of sinners, remains strong and faithful in his love that is poured out and broken open for all.