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ISAIAH 49:1-6 PSALM 71:6.15-17 JOHN 13:21-33.36-38 For a long time, the interpretation of Isaiah 49:1-6 was focused on the identity of the servant mentioned in it. Early New Testament writers drew a connection to Jesus of Nazareth who emerged as the ultimate suffering Servant ( see also Isaiah 53:3-35), who through his sacrifice on the cross brought healing and salvation for all.

But the identity of the servants ambiguous. The ambiguity of the identity of the servant is evident in the language of the poem itself.

God clearly addresses the speaker in verse 3 as " my servant Israel " and in verse 6, the servant is called to restore the survivors of Israel and once again raise up the tribes of Jacob in relation to Genesis 12:1-3 so as to fulfill God's original intention for them. Whether directed to an individual agent who is called to a life of service, or at the fragmented exilic community who is given a newfound goal in life to care for others near and far, this call to service is not to be taken for granted.

These words were directed at people who have been scattered to the ends of the earth themselves because they have been evicted from homes and holy places. Central to this text is the notion of God's presence as profoundly transformative in nature. The speaker feels greatly disillusioned about the effectiveness of his mission this far, nevertheless, this text does its best to remind us that it is God's presence from before the servant even was born that ought to be seen as the source of his strength.

Once again in the history of our faith that we normally express through and in our liturgy, we feel exiled because we cannot gather as a community of faith to celebrate the Holy Week and Easter due to COVID 19 health guidelines.

We also have people who cannot be close to their loved ones due to hospitalization. Despite all these, let us see that God is intimately involved in our lives just as it is the case in the life of the servant.

This text offers some important perspectives for many individuals and communities who may be experiencing hardship today and at this moment the direct and indirect hardships caused by COVID 19 thus making us struggle for survival.

However, it is a powerful perspective not to be threatened by one's own experience of vulnerabilities but rather to find ways in order to be a source of comfort and consolation to others who might be in an equally precarious situation.

What difference would this outward-looking mentality make when everyone regardless of our own trials and tribulations, seeks opportunities to serve one another, to open up the doors of happiness by taking care of the many others with whom we share the world as Jesus did.

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