Saturday, January 9, 2010

Military Meditation on Isaiah 53

The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, I think one of the best readings of the liturgical year, is always read on Good Friday. When I was head lector at St. B's years ago, I used to hog it for myself. Verse 5 is key to what I was thinking the other night.

I happen to be the block club leader, partly because I have more time than almost all my neighbors do; those who are also retired are partly or fully disabled, and I'm still reasonably able-bodied despite my years (I was 14 or 15 when Cavey was born). So, using a neighbor's 8hp snowblower (I call it "The Monster"), I try to clear driveways and sidewalks of my less able neighbors. This is what neighbors do.

So I'm out the other night after a 3" snowfall, doing driveways, when Isaiah 53:5 pops into my head: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; by his stripes we were healed."

Then it occurred to me: "stripes" also has a military connotation. Stripes on a sleeve are a mark of authority. The best authority (so I'm told) is held by sergeants and CPO's and such who put their troops' needs above their own. In "Band of Brothers," the platoon master sergeant is given a field commission and made platoon leader for just that reason. His service to the platoon earned him that. He was given authority because he had accepted responsibility and done his duty.

And rather like the master sergeant, I do what I can to look after my neighbors. It's what neighbors do, but I just have this notion that if I'm to have the authority of block club leader, I have the duty to go the extra mile on my neighbors' behalf.

Jesus' stripes were the wounds of the whip on His body, not cloth on His sleeves, but the message to me is clear: Jesus has the stripes, He loves me and takes care of me, he has given me the Church and the sacraments (the best is Himself, of course), so by His bearing the stripes I am healed. In the orthodox traditional sense, His suffering and death were the atonement for the sins of the world.

In my imaginative sense, Jesus is like a good sergeant who got his stripes the hard way and whose authority over me I accept; I can always trust Him to do what's best for me, even if it means giving me orders I don't quite understand. (Like his Mother said at Cana to the servants: "Do whatever He tells you.") We're at war against the devil and his creatures, and Jesus Christ is a commander-in-chief we can trust all the way to the end.

Odd meditation for a subzero January night. Maybe the cold was affecting my brain . . . but I don't think so.

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