The Scripture readings that the RCL recommends for this Sunday create a wonderful framework for the start of the last week of Lent (also called the Holy Week). In Mark 14 and 15 we read about the final events before the crucifixion and about the crucifixion itself.
It is quite natural and necessary to focus during these days on the story recorded in Mark 14 and 15. The other texts that the RCL uses, helps us not to make this “focus on Jesus” an “unconnected to this world” focus. We need to remember that we are living in a broken world where people suffer daily in many different ways. We can describe our broken world in different ways, but few of these affect so many people in so many different ways as the AIDS pandemic.
Isaiah 50:4-9 reminds us that the servant of the Lord has the right words to encourage those who are tired (50:4a). He can do this because he has learnt to listen (50:4b-5) and to endure suffering (50:6).
Psalm 31:9-16 expresses the lament of somebody who is in need. Listen again to verse 11-13 as the prayer of somebody who has been rejected by others. The negative role of stigma in the AIDS pandemic causes many people living with HIV and also those directly affected by it, to experience what Ps 31:11-13 puts into words.
Philippians 2:5 reminds us that Jesus not only suffered and died for us, but that He calls us to follow Him.