by Father Mike Stubbs
Popular culture often characterizes the courts and the law enforcement system as ineffective. Crime and chaos rule in the streets. But fear not! Someone is coming to the rescue, whether it is Batman, Superman, or some other comic book figure. That superhero will establish justice on earth.
The person presented in Sunday’s first reading — Is 42:1-4, 6-7 — appears to fit that description. It is the servant of the Lord, who predicts about him that “he shall bring forth justice to the nations.” That prediction is repeated only a few verses later: “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.”
We should remember that “the nations” refers to the gentiles, the peoples outside of Israel. Similarly, the coastlands that will receive the teaching of the Lord’s servant are inhabited by the gentiles. They live on the shores of the Mediterranean. In other words, the Lord’s servant will bring justice to the gentiles, not to Israel. That is not necessary, since Israel already has God’s justice.
Israel already knows God’s will, that is to say, justice, which has been revealed to Israel, above all through the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The prophets have reinforced those teachings and explained them to the people. But the gentiles lack the Torah — in fact, the whole Bible. That is where the Lord’s servant mentioned in our reading steps in.
The Lord’s servant will bring justice to the nations by instructing them about God’s will. That is the teaching referred to where the reading says: “the coastlands will wait for his teaching.” The Hebrew word translated here as “teaching” is “Torah.” That word not only refers to the first five books of the Bible, but also can mean “teaching” or “law.”
The Lord’s servant will not impose justice through strong-arm tactics, but through very gentle means. That gentleness lies behind the images of a bruised reed and a smoldering wick in the verse: “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.”
The Lord’s servant, the Messiah, will bring justice to the world by means of his teachings. That is the prediction made in our reading and what we see happening through Jesus Christ. He was known as a teacher and was often addressed as such in the Gospels, which recorded his sayings and parables.
Through them, Jesus Christ continues to bring justice to the world, to make known God’s will for us.