He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendour.” But I said, “I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”
Tuesday, 30 March 2021
The tension in this section of Isaiah is palpable. The author’s sense of failure is contrasted with God’s promise of victory. Similarly, in the Passion in Mark’s Gospel (Chapters 14 and 15), we get a sense of this when Jesus predicts that he will be betrayed by not one but two friends – Judas and Peter. Both, of course, deny this (‘Not I! Not I?’): one of them – Peter – truly believes this; the other – Judas – has already set the process that will lead to Jesus’ arrest and execution into motion.
Jesus is aware of his imminent, apparent failure. But despite this, Jesus is determined to carry on his mission to the end.
I don’t think it’s just me who often thinks that what I do seems pointless, that so much ends in failure. Indeed, that all too often, God even seems to set us up for failure. God gives us great dreams and seems to encourage us on a path of service that can become so difficult, so filled with opposition, that one wonders whether it was (a) truly what God wanted and (b) whether it has any point. Small wonder, then, that the great Saint Teresa of Avila once said to God, “Are you surprised that you have so few friends?”
To those who might counter my observation by saying, “This hasn’t happened to me,” I am tempted to respond, “You may be one of the lucky ones. Then again…wait and see.”
So what should we do? I think Isaiah and Jesus make it quite clear. We must, if we truly seek to be servants of God and share in God’s mission, carry on despite opposition. Once we have discerned the path God has chosen for us, once we have embarked on God’s mission, retreat is not an option.