Defined by Suffering
Sanchez, Patrcia Datchuck, National Catholic Reporter
The following Sunday commentaries by Patricia Datchuck Sanchez appear in full in Celebration, the worship and homiletic resource of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company. To receive a full copy of the May 2009 issue in PDF format, go to www.celebrationpublications.org/freeoffer.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2009, TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Is 50:5-9; Ps116; Jas 2.:14-18; Mk 8:27-35
If you have watched reruns of the TV series "M*A*S*H," you might remember the scenes where the medical staff performs triage each time a helicopter arrives with more wounded from the Korean War. After they do a quick visual evaluation, the staff assesses each patient's physical condition and assigns their treatment to the medical professional best suited to help them.
Contemporary programs like "E.R." and "House" utilize a similar process when patients present themselves in the emergency room. Doctors can be heard saying, "Broken leg in Room 3" or "Third-degree burns, Curtain 2" or "Head trauma in intensive care." In this process of evaluation, television reflects the real-life activity of hospital emergency rooms, trauma centers and even the battlefield. Those in need of care are identified by their wounds or sicknesses. Only when their suffering is addressed and attended can one see beyond their struggle to discover who they really are.
Today's first reading and Gospel feature two figures who were willingly defined by suffering, for it was through their suffering that they were able to show their true face to the world. Deutero-Isaiah never names the servant he has described in four poignant songs. However, the prophet has described in vivid detail the suffering he endured for the sake of his ministry. In order to speak a word that would rouse his contemporaries, he would endure their rejection; to establish justice for the nations, he would let himself be beaten and mocked. To be the light of the nations and the liberator of the prisoners, he would accept being spat upon. To bring healing and wholeness to the blind, the deaf and the lame, he would not shield himself but would give himself over to the wrath of those he had come to save.
This Isaiah servant is only fully identified in the person and through the mission of Jesus. The servant would provide the template for us to understand the salvific suffering of the one whom Peter identified as the Christ_ No sooner was that noble declaration spoken by Peter than Jesus began to define himself as Christ in terms of suffering. …