There is an interesting link between the Gospel message today (Mk 8:27-35) and the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is 50:5-9). It relates directly to Jesus’ forewarning to his would-be followers that if they really and truly wanted to follow him, then they had to be ready to take up their cross. Even the mere mention of the cross can be quite unsettling; after all, who of us would really want to carry such a cross?
It is also interesting that the Servant in the First Reading is strong enough and courageous enough to absorb the physical attacks against him, the spitting in his face, and the insults aimed at him (to have your “beard torn (plucked)” was a supreme insult in that ancient world.) That strength didn’t come from rigorous daily training at the gym. Instead, it came from “listening” to the Lord. There are three words omitted at the beginning of the First Reading in the Missal. The full sentence of 50:4 is “Morning after morning the Lord has opened my ear (“that I may hear.”)
Clearly, the Servant had spent time every single morning studying and meditating on God’s holy word in Scripture. This was the source of his strength, knowing that Yahweh God would never leave him, but always be a source of comfort and strength to him in trying times. As a poet himself, the Servant undoubtedly knew well, and relied upon such passages, as the ones we hear in the Psalms today (Responsorial: Ps 114:1-9) – a deep expression of faith in the Lord during a time of persecution or abuse. Jesus himself would have learnt these Psalms and Prophetic writings as he grew in wisdom in Nazareth, and looked forward to his own cross. This should be a practical example for us to follow today. We, too, can find our daily strength to carry our crosses by a daily dose of meditation on God’s holy word!
And, just as the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 50 embraced his mistreatment, so did Jesus – for our salvation Jesus is our model of holiness, and he wants us to learn from him. Can you let him “open your ear” every morning!