22 March – Tuesday of Holy Week
Dear Readers, I feel silly for the blunder on my part yesterday and today. As you may have realised, Monday’s reflection was mistakenly written using Tuesday’s scriptures. Thus, I have amended and written Tuesday’s reflection, using Monday’s beautiful Scripture, which calls to attention the imagery of God sparing the bruised reed. Thank you for bearing with our occasional errors. Wishing you a blessed Holy Week.
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom my soul delights.
I have endowed him with my spirit
that he may bring true justice to the nations.
He does not cry out or shout aloud,
or make his voice heard in the streets.
He does not break the crushed reed,
nor quench the wavering flame.
Faithfully he brings true justice;
he will neither waver, nor be crushed
until true justice is established on earth,
for the islands are awaiting his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
he who created the heavens and spread them out,
who gave shape to the earth and what comes from it,
who gave breath to its people
and life to the creatures that move in it:
‘I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right;
I have taken you by the hand and formed you;
I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations,
‘to open the eyes of the blind,
to free captives from prison,
and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.’
Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom he had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there; Martha waited on them and Lazarus was among those at table. Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment. Then Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, the man who was to betray him – said, ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions. So Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’
Meanwhile a large number of Jews heard that he was there and came not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. Then the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.
He does not break the crushed reed
‘A bruised reed, he shall not break.’ I heard this particular translation of these words during the homily and those words sank deep roots in my heart. It made me remember moments of my tendency for harshness towards my loved ones. It also made me recall how I used to hate meekness as a child. I grew up with a father whose temper was frightening. Being the oldest, I wanted to grow up to be a boy to defend my family, fight back even. I detested what I thought was my mum’s meekness. In my childhood experiences, mercy was unheard of; only exhaustion and stone cold silence when the storms blew over. I was maybe five when I decided I had a core of tenderness that would never see the light of day. In order to survive, I had to brace my heart and expectations with cynicism and escape plans.
Many disappointments continually exposed my rawness, until thick scar tissues of shame and fear covered over my ability to feel tenderness and gentleness, and offer it to others. I was a bruised reed who was unused to mercy and compassion, or believed these to never last long – one day, you’re going to be disappointed again, I’d brace myself. This is a terrible way to live. Always frightful, anxious; never trusting. Unconsciously, I projected these fears onto my image of God. It’s been an ongoing emotional and spiritual excavation… a process that an anxiety-ridden me has to accept will never be complete until the day God calls me home.
I am learning to pattern my heart after the meek and humble heart of Jesus. It feels unnatural for this flesh-heart of mine, honestly. It is also very, very, painful to die to the part of my ‘self’ I’d created at a necessary point in life, in order to feel safe. This is what following Jesus means – Take up your cross and come, follow me, he says (Lk 9:23). Like saying Sorry – first. Like accepting apology and forgiving quickly. Like being kind and compassionate to myself. Like withholding judgement on my own weaknesses. Like believing that I am not condemned to remain the way I am. That I am worthy of love and God desires good things for me. That accepting the Father’s will, also means accepting that I have been forgiven by Him and forgiving myself.
A bruised reed is a symbol of feebleness, a blade of grass crushed by the weight of sinfulness and bad choices. Jesus came, not to torment us, nor crush us further with the weight of his Divinity. He came clothed in meekness of heart; he came as God’s servant – willing to bear humiliation and suffering for us. Why? Because such is the love of God: ‘Here is my servant… my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit…’ (Is 42:1).
God’s Holy Spirit is Love – and Jesus is the fruit of His Love, being Love in Person. How wondrous to meditate on this grace-filled reality! I am learning to take this trinitarian relationship as the cornerstone of my faith and life. While Mary anoints Jesus’ feet with perfume and wipes it with her hair, he fiercely defends and lovingly receives the penitent and worshipping heart.
I hold dear the prophecy of Isaiah 42:7 for myself:
Jesus came to open my eyes from blindness to my beloved identity,
to free my captive heart from the prison of fear and self-condemnation,
and to lift my soul from the dungeons of sin and un-forgiveness.
Whenever I feel tempted to bruise my own already-battered spirit, I shall cling firm to my faith in God’s promises and fix my eyes on Jesus’ Sacred Heart, pulsing and bleeding with merciful love for me.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I allow You to lovingly burn away the dross of distorted thoughts in my mind, and selfish love in my heart. I know it will hurt for now, but I shall rejoice for this chance to mature in love for You and grow in true virtues worthy of Your Eternity.
I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living.
Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.
Hope in the Lord!