Bishop Glen John Provost 
Bishop of Lake Charles 
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 
Lake Charles, Louisiana 
April 6, 2012 
Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord

“See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.” 
Isaiah 52:13

For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite readings in Holy Week has been the passage from Isaiah read on Good Friday.  It begins with this challenging verse, “See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13).  Every image in this reading, written so many centuries before, tells us about Jesus Christ on Good Friday.  Jesus is indeed “raised high” on the cross of Calvary and becomes “greatly exalted” in this supreme redemptive act.  All is so because He is a “servant.”  

How often did Jesus speak of himself as a servant?  In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus will say, “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).  The servant is the one who performs his task faithfully and well.  Whatever his pay, he sees to his duties and even does more than is expected.  And as the servant enters more deeply into his relationship with the master, what he does is done not from fear of punishment but from love of the one he serves.  Eventually he will give his life for the master, for nothing is too good for the one whose happiness he seeks.  This is the picture of the servant Jesus paints for us throughout the Gospels.  

Following the third prediction of the Passion in the Gospel of St. Mark, Jesus will say these profoundly moving words inspired by Isaiah.  “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  This is the language of Isaiah in our first reading.  “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear” (Isaiah 53:11).  There is no redemption without sacrifice, without the emptying out of self, first by the Lord Jesus Christ, who must live the life of a servant to the bitterest end and, most dreadful of all for us personally, leave us an example of what we must do.  Is this not what Jesus says to Andrew and Philip when foretelling His passion!  The entire passage is worth quoting:

         The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen,
         amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground 
         and dies, it produces much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, 
         and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. 
         Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my
         servant be.  The Father will honor whoever serves me (John 12:23-26).

I could cite many examples of where I have seen this sacrificial love lived out but one will suffice.  Some thirty years ago, when I was a young priest, on Fridays we would visit the homebound.  At Christmas the priests of the parish would visit all of them to hear confessions, bring Holy Communion, and anoint, if necessary.  One home I will never forget.  It was located in a poor neighborhood.  The mother showed me into the room of her son, maybe 30 years of age.  He was confined to his bed, paralyzed from an accident.  He had been so for almost ten years, and he would never walk again.  And there was his mother, who did everything for him.  There were no sitters or nurses.  She was his servant.  This was her servant task, which she performed without a moment’s regret, without reproach, and with the love that only a mother could give an afflicted son.  If with the eyes of faith we have noticed, we have seen such scenes of love in our lives.
These are not the glamorous people of glossy magazines.  There will be no medals or awards given to them before they die.  They are, for the most part, forgotten and pass from this world never to be remembered.  Yet, they are the Gospel lived out for us to see and touch.  They are the servants, and the world is not worthy of them.  

Such is the pathos of Jesus Christ.  “[H]e was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).  “[H]e had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood” (Isaiah 53:9). 
Yet, “a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers” (Isaiah 53:9).  

If we can identify Jesus with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, then we can catch a glimpse of that to which Jesus calls us in imitation.  The gift of self is the most profound gift that one can give. 
Jesus did this for us on the cross of Calvary, which we relive and touch every time we celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice.  As St. Paul will tells us, “[A]s often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (I Corinthians 11:26).  It is the one and only perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant, whose redemptive act takes away the sins of the world.    

Make us your servants, Lord.