October 26, 2018

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Jeremiah provides the first reading for this weekend’s Mass. A few facts about Jeremiah are known from the book itself. He was from Anatoth, a village only a few miles from Jerusalem, and he was the son of Hilkiah, a priest. He served as a prophet for more than 40 years.

Being the son of a priest, he in all likelihood was quite familiar with ancient Hebrew religious traditions. He would have been particularly aware of the importance of the Exodus, the flight from Egypt and slavery that molded the Hebrews into one distinctive nation that resulted in their settlement in the Holy Land.

He would have thought that the Hebrews did not escape Egypt simply because they were lucky or clever. To the contrary, they succeeded in fleeing the bondage they had endured in Egypt only by the mercy and power of God.

Jeremiah saw events in his lifetime as threatening or as awful as the plight of his people centuries earlier in Egypt. He lived to see Babylonia completely overtake the Hebrew homeland, and he saw the coercion brought to bear upon his people by Babylon and other imperialistic neighbors.

He addressed these threats—and the humiliation and destruction of being conquered—with faith that the merciful God of the Exodus again would rescue the people. This weekend’s reading is a powerful and expressive acclamation of God’s power and goodness, and the assurance that once more God will protect and lead the people.

As is typical of this book, this reading is moving in its eloquence and feeling.

For its second reading, the Church presents a passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

This New Testament Scripture is abundant in its references to ancient Jewish beliefs and customs. The author, although unknown, clearly knew Judaism and Jewish life in the first century very well.

Supreme in Jewish worship and other aspects of Jewish life in the first century was the high priest, descending in office from Aaron, the brother of Moses. The high priest acted for the entire nation as he offered the sacrifice in the temple.

The Epistle to the Hebrews sees Jesus as the great high priest of the new era of salvation, the era of Christianity. Jesus acts for all humanity in sacrificing to God, bringing reconciliation and a new bonding after sin tore humanity away from God.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is the story of Bartimaeus, a blind man who begged by the roadside in Jericho. It is no wonder that Bartimaeus had to beg in order to survive.

At the time of Jesus, people with severe physical challenges, such as blindness, were reduced to begging unless their families assisted them.

Blindness, as all other bodily difficulties, had a spiritual component for the ancient Jews. God willed nothing evil or heartless. Disease and incapacity were signs of a grave sin that had been committed.

Thus, when Jesus healed, the effects and power of sin also were overcome.

The key to Bartimeus’ being healed was his faith.

Reflection

Jeremiah was hardly the only ancient Hebrew writer who concentrated on the mercy of God as seen in the Exodus. God’s mercy is everlasting, because he is eternal and unchanging.

God is not forgiving and blessing in one instance, but punitive and angry in another.

Just as hardships and great worries troubled the ancient Hebrews long after they had left Egypt, so sadness and difficulties confront us today.

We cannot do everything ourselves. Nonetheless, the loving God who came to the aid of the Hebrews at the time of the Exodus helps us through the reconciling death and resurrection of Jesus. The key is that we, as Bartimaeus, love and trust in God. †

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