The Servant hears the call (Is 49:1-6). It is a call to bring Jacob and Israel back to God but it also a call to bring the islands and distant peoples to God. The Servant gets it. God is the God of all peoples. The Servant will be a light to the nations. All will be invited and welcomed at the table of God.
God’s glory will be revealed through the Servant. Again, the messiah is cast as a Servant, not as a mighty King or military commander. The Servant has toiled faithfully. The Servant now faces the same plight as anyone who strives to serve God. The servant asks whether he has “toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength.” This is a question that faithful servants have asked through the ages. Merton directly addressed this issue in his “Blessed are the meek: The Roots of Christian Nonviolence.” He wrote:
Perhaps the most insidious temptation to be avoided is one which is characteristic of the power structure itself: fetishism of immediate visible results. . . . The temptation to get publicity and quick results by spectacular tricks or by forms of protest that are merely odd or provocative but whose human meaning is not clear may defeat this purpose [maintaining the human dignity of nonviolence]. (Emphasis added)
Merton got it. Mother Teresa got it. In Come, Be my Light [the call she initially heard from Jesus], she empties her heart. The saint of the Calcutta slums has emerged as a mystic in the great tradition of John of the Cross. The pathos is clear, “If I ever become saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
Her pain and longing in the darkness of the night of the soul is so poignant:
Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart—this untold darkness—this loneliness, this continual longing for God—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind or with my reason—the place of God in my soul is blank—There is no God in me—when the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there-. . . God does not want me—Sometimes—I just hear my own God heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes—the torture and pain I cannot explain.
Teresa experienced the pain Jesus experienced during the last days. The bottom line is faithfulness—Jesus was obedient unto death, even death on the cross [the death of a common criminal].
Our of call is to follow the Gospel of nonviolence and resistance to empire. The results are up to God. We are to be faithful, even amid great darkness and uncertainty, and not fret about being effective.
Jesus is deeply troubled (Jn 13:21-33, 36-38). Borg and Crossan (The Last Week) describe Tuesday in Jesus’ last week based on Mark’s Gospel. Jesus comes from Bethany and enters the Temple area. He is confronted by challenge upon challenge from various groups in authority—all trying to trick, discredit and trap him. After reading what all Jesus encountered in one day in the temple, I was tired!
It is hard for us to get into the way Jesus must have felt. We are reading/hearing what is being said about Jesus being troubled but, in the back of our minds, we are saying, “Yeah, but he was God.” It does not work that way. If Jesus was fully human and fully divine, he felt human emotions and he felt them deeply.
I doubt that there is anyone who has lived a while who has not felt betrayal at the hands of a loved one or a person close to them. Betrayal by an unknown person who does not like what you stand for hurts but betrayal hurts and hurts and hurts. Betrayal by a group that endorses a strategy or plan and then leaves you hanging when objections arise is a another common form of betrayal. It is like the disciples running away and hiding when the heat was on. This is the betrayal Jesus felt. He had been with these men and women for at least three years. He had grown close to them even though they did not get what he was about most of the time.
They were his friends! Yet, one of them would betray him. The main guy—Peter—would deny him thrice. The rest would flee into the night. Abandoned, alone, in suffering and agony, Jesus would come to his glory. Jesus would be glorified because he would overcome death at the hands of Empire. He was inaugurating a new world order—love one another as I have loved you. He is telling those who would betray, deny and abandon him that he still loved them! He would go before them and meet them once again in Galilee. Jesus’ glory would be revealed when he triumphed over the powers and principalities. Gospel values would trump empire values.
The Solentiname community in Nicaragua reflected on this (Volume 4, at 137-145). It is a powerful reflection because Fernando and Ernesto Cardenal, Carlos Mejia Godoy (Nicaraguan musician), and Mario Avila (Nicaraguan composer) were with them.
Alejandro understands that, when people like Jesus, are doing what is right, people will begin to attack and betray them. Donald understands that God’s glory will be revealed when a people are freed from oppression. Jesus frees us from the oppression of death. Death has no sting!
Fernando reminds the community that they cannot go where Jesus goes. He says:
…we can find him that way, by loving one another; in this way he will indeed be present. He is saying goodbye to them, and on giving them a new commandment he is telling them, telling us, that we must look for him not where he is going but in communal love. “Look for me where you are going to find me: love one another.” Because there is a danger in wanting to look for him in the sky, and he’s saying to them, “You are going to look for me and I give you this new commandment.
Mario Avila says something that merits pondering:
It’s anew love with which people were going to love one another, the love that Christ brought and with which he loved humankind. And that’s why he says it’s a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. He is the union between us, the mutual love that there will be among us, the collective love that there’s going to be in the society of the future, that’s the love he was for us.
The love of Jesus alive among us will usher in the new world order, the kin-dom. We need to answer the call. We need to proclaim to the islands and distant coasts that God so loved the world. That is the love which enspirits the Jesus community today.
There is no reason not to love because Jesus has overcome death. He wrestled with the powers and principalities. He overcame by nonviolent obedience unto death. The kin-dom is emerging. Maybe the community gathered at Solentiname could grasp this because their vision was less clouded by the good things of life. What blinders do we have to cast off so that we can see the reality of the kin-dom right before our eyes?
In the words of Manuel, “Gosh! The glory of God is love, and Christ is showing his love for the world by dying on the cross. It’s the triumph of love also.” Ernesto added, “God is love and Christ will show that love with his death, and that love raises him up.”