July 17, 2021
Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today
The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known. Matthew 12:14–16
This passage goes on to say that Jesus withdrew to a more deserted place to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah the Prophet (Isaiah 42:1–4). That prophecy is the first of what is referred to as “The Songs of the Suffering Servant.” In these songs or poems of Isaiah, the Messiah is presented to us as one who would be sent on a mission from God, would suffer injustice for the sake of others, would be rejected, and ultimately be vindicated and exalted. The mission of the Suffering Servant was to bring justice and salvation to all, including to the gentiles.
At that time, the idea of a messianic king was still prominent in the minds of many. They anticipated the coming of a messiah who would be a political leader and would lead the people of Israel out of oppression, making them a free, prosperous and powerful nation. But Jesus acts in the opposite manner. Instead of raising up an army to combat the evil intentions of the Pharisees and to overthrow the Romans, Jesus withdrew from them and invited people to come to Him for healing and to receive His teachings.
Jesus perfectly fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah by becoming the Suffering Servant. And because His messianic role was much different than what many people had anticipated, Saint Matthew points us to the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah as a way of clearly showing that Jesus truly was the promised Messiah. He was just not the form of messiah that many expected. He was One Who was humble and gentle of heart. He was One Who would redeem people by the Blood of His Cross. And He was One Who would extend salvation to all people, not only the people of Israel.
One lesson this teaches us is that even today we can have false expectations of God. It is easy for us to set forth our own idea of what God should do and what true justice demands. But we also read in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8–9).
Just as it must have been difficult for the people of Israel to come to accept the promised Messiah as a servant Who suffers and Who redeems all people through that suffering, so it is often difficult for us to accept our Lord as He is. It is difficult to shed our own ideas of what we want God to do and this is especially difficult when He calls us to share in His own suffering and servanthood. To serve, suffer, sacrifice our lives, and the like can be difficult to accept. But this is the way of our Lord—it is the way of the Suffering Servant of God.
Reflect, today, upon your own expectations of God. Do you have a long list of things that you think God should do? Do you pray for that list of your ideas, thinking that if you only ask enough, God will grant your requests? If your requests flow from His perfect will, then praying for them in faith will bring them about. But if they flow more from you and your own ideas of what God should do, then all the prayers in the world will not bring them to be. If this is your struggle, then try to start anew by turning your eyes to the Servant Who Suffers for the salvation of all. Reflect upon the fact that God’s thoughts and ways are most often very far above your own thoughts and ways. Try to humble yourself before the Suffering Servant and abandon all ideas that do not flow from His Heart.
My Suffering Servant, I thank You for Your suffering and death and for the redemption that flows from Your sacrifice of love. Help me to shed all false expectations that I have of You, dear Lord, so that I will be guided by You and Your mission of salvation alone. Jesus, I trust in You.