The other day I read this familiar passage from Isaiah 42:1-4:
“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased. Upon him I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow dim or be bruised until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.”
I have read this passage a countless number of times, always seeing myself as the chosen one. But the other day I read a remark from Pope Francis that encouraged taking a deeper look at a familiar passage to see if a different message or insight emerged. So, I did.
I read this passage a couple more times. Afterward, I realized how arrogant I can be. Maybe I wasn’t the chosen one after all but the one being ministered to in so many ways. At this revelation a series of examples flared up in my memory.
My brother, who is currently in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, showed me over and over again last week what it means to be totally dependent on someone else for the mere basic necessities of life. “He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street…” This text reminded me of my brother who is incapable of communicating or understanding ordinary life situations. Yet, when I considered myself, I saw how I take my independence for granted and can often be heard complaining.
On a recent airplane flight there was a young man also on the plane. He had no arms or legs, not even stumps, only the trunk of his body and his head. His attitude, however, was so positive and upbeat. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench…” Again, I found such contrast with myself; how often I get discouraged when things don’t go my way.
A great number of homeless people can be found near where I live. All of their possessions are carried in a backpack, and somehow they are able to survive with the help of others. A rescue mission houses over 300 people at night, feeds them and cares for them, mostly with donations. “He will faithfully bring forth justice…” I, on the other hand, require a truck to move all of my stuff. What does this day about my vow of poverty? What have I done to bring about justice for the dispossessed?
“The coastlands will wait for his teaching…” The Lord teaches me over and over again through his love and the love of others, especially by their example. God’s Spirit rests on all people. May the Lord help us to be attentive to all the servants that are brought into our lives as mediators of the Lord’s mercy, love, and grace. We are brought to life through them. They heal our hearts and our world today. I pray that I might become a better mediator of God’s holy love through my life of service. Open my heart, O Lord, to your presence in me and in others. Amen.
By Sister Veronica Ryan, OSB