Like all of the prophets, Isaiah was treated harshly for bringing the word of God to the Chosen People (Jesus speaks about these prophets in Mt 23:29-39 among other places). In today’s first reading (Is 50:4-7), on the last Sunday before Easter, Isaiah relates some of the difficulties he faced, including this famous line that vividly evokes an even greater figure anticipated by Isaiah:
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting. (v. 6)
In a few short days we relive this episode as Jesus is arrested, interrogated, mocked, tortured, and finally killed over the span of less than twenty-four hours.
But I would like to draw special attention to the closing words of this excerpt (found in the headline). We are reminded here of Luke 9:51 which marks the point, in that Gospel, when Jesus is “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (literally, “he set his face”) where he will ultimately endure His Passion, suffer death, and then rise.
Like Isaiah and Jesus, we are to set our face like flint, but for us toward the promised heavenly Jerusalem. No matter how marred Jesus’ visage became, He was not put to shame. He conquered this world. With His help, so can we. Let us never be moved to curry the favor of men if it contradicts God’s will. No earthly honors or accolades (or threats) should ever cause us to abandon (or even veer from) the narrow path that leads to life (see Mt 7:13-14). With the Lord on our side we cannot be put to shame.