September 10, 2018
The disciples, especially in the person of Peter, do not want to hear about Jesus’ future suffering and death when Jesus talks to them about what will happen to him in Jerusalem. Peter’s criticism of Jesus—rebuking Jesus for what He has said—stands in defiance of Jesus’ own acceptance of the path of suffering that is characterized so clearly in our first reading. Here we meet the “suffering servant” of Isaiah, who is willing to accept the scorn and humiliations imposed on him by others as he remains faithful to God’s call for him. The “suffering servant” of Isaiah is content to hope in God despite all the criticisms and sufferings that he must endure. Indeed, the “suffering servant” asserts that he experiences God’s presence and help in the midst of these difficulties.
Like the “suffering servant,” Jesus will experience criticism and suffering from those who object to Jesus’ care for the marginalized and the poor. Those who criticize Jesus will find offense at who he gathers into the peace of God’s kingdom, and they will eventually kill him for acting in this way on God’s behalf. But in the midst of these criticisms and sufferings, Jesus continues to have resolute trust in the God who has called him for this mission, trust that will extend to accepting death, death on a cross.
Perhaps our second reading provides insight into how we may follow in the footsteps of Jesus—both in accepting criticism and suffering, and in trusting in God in the midst of these things. Here James reminds us to care for the poor. We might think of the poor in our own midst: lonely elderly, hungry children, foreign refugees, low-income workers, homeless people, and the mentally ill. We are called not only to help them directly, but also to work to change the structures that permit and encourage such situations. Like Jesus, those who work toward a more peaceable kingdom will surely receive their share of criticism from those who seek to keep the status quo. But, they persist in their trust that, despite the criticism, they are doing their part to make the world into the peaceable kingdom that God desires.