Holy Tuesday: Is 49.1-6; J 13.21-33.36-38
At the end of today’s first lesson from the Prophet Isaiah (49.1-6) we read, ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth’.
This passage is found in the so called ‘second Isaiah’, a portion of the book expressing a hope of the restoration of Israel. The prophet speaks out of the experience of exile, following a complete destruction of the Jewish world in 586 BCE when Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, and most of the city’s population deported to Babylon.
The people were scattered and disorientated, caught up in the events they couldn’t control. Perhaps this is something we can relate to during this difficult time. Although not exiled, we too are scattered, not able to gather to socialise with the people we love, or even to worship. We might be in the comfort of our homes, but even our homes may sometimes feel like prison cells if we are not able to leave them to enjoy what the world has to offer.
We have found ourselves in a strange land so deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many more people die every day, many more people are hospitalised, including the Prime Minister now in intensive care. It really is a strange land. The weather outside may be beautiful, but the experience of coronavirus continues to be deeply unsettling for our families, friends and communities.
However, we shouldn’t let it overwhelm us. What the liturgy offers us today is the word of comfort. The Second Isaiah (ch. 40-55) is often called the “Book of Consolation”. Today, God offers us reassurance that his light will never entirely depart from us. Through his prophet God says, ‘I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
We know that our Lord described himself as ‘the light of the world’ and said that whoever follows him will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (J 8.12).
During Holy Week we are reminded that Jesus, the light of the world, knows what our darkness and confusion feel like. In the gospel we find Jesus ‘troubled in spirit’ (J 13.21). Betrayed by his friends, he found himself in a strange and lonely land. He didn’t die surrounded by his disciples, but by a hostile crowd. At the foot of the cross only a handful of his loved-ones kept watch, including his mother, Mary, and John, his beloved disciple.
The Son of God took upon himself our human experience of isolation and pain so that when we experience these things we may know that we are never alone, that God walks alongside us and that his light of hope shines even within the darkest of nights.
So, today, on this Holy Tuesday, let us pray that the light of Christ may shine upon our dispersed communities living under the shadow of coronavirus. May the light of Christ shine within our hearts and encourage us to be a people who are always ready to share that light with others.
With St Paul, let us pray: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ’ (1 Cor 3-5). Amen.