The Suffering Servant

By Fr. Matthew Habiger, OSB | A moral theologian, former president of HLI and noted expert on Natural Family Planning, Fr. Habiger is also a monk at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas.

From a human point of view, Jesus must have felt deep discouragement as he came to the close of his public ministry.

He came to show God’s love for humanity, but he met with hostility and rejection.  He came to teach us God’s plan for human life and human interactions, but many turned him off and rejected his teachings, including the religious leaders of the day.  He gathered a select group around him, with whom He shared his confidence, and led them into a deeper understanding of his identity and mission.  But one of the Twelve betrayed him and the others abandoned him when his hour of trial arrived.

Jesus must have wondered if his efforts would have any success, if the people He came to help would accept Him and would cooperate with God’s plan for them.

The first reading is the third Suffering Servant Song from Isaiah.  Isaiah foreshadows Jesus.  “The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward.  I gave my back to smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Is 50:5-6).

Isaiah knew that God was speaking to him, revealing His ways to him, and that he, Isaiah, was called to bring that message to the people.  He would not always be well received.  He would be spit upon. His cheeks would be buffeted.  But he knew that God wanted him to announce His message to the people.

Now, in our times, you and I are called upon by the Lord to bring the message of God to our contemporaries.  In the public square we are to present God’s plan for the human race, with courage and conviction.  We propose, and defend, God’s plan for marriage and family, his plan for human life and fertility, and his plan for how the nations are to live together in peace and justice.

As happened to Isaiah, to Jesus, and to his faithful disciples, we too can expect to receive only a partial, conditioned acceptance.  Sometimes we shall meet hostile opposition.  Christianity has always met opposition when it engages with the prevalent culture.  Advancing the good often comes with a price.  Giving resistance to evil is usually not gladly received.

The world is much better for the suffering of Jesus and his faithful followers.  Without Jesus, and his acceptance of the Cross, the world would be left in total darkness and would eventually drown in its self-absorption.

During this Holy Week, may we identify closely with the Lord as He reenacts the great deeds that brought about our salvation.  May each of us be drawn into a deeper relationship with our God, who laid down his life for us.


Want to contact Father Matthew?  Email him at mhabiger@kansasmonks.org.


Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.