October 22, 2021

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

The Sunday Readings

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

Being the son of a priest, in all likelihood Jeremiah was familiar with the traditions of the ancient Hebrews. 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 race, and that resulted in their settlement in the Holy Land.

Hebrew belief was clear. They did not escape Egypt simply because they were lucky or clever. To the contrary, they succeeded in fleeing the miseries they had endured in Egypt only by the mercy and power of God.

Jeremiah saw events in his own lifetime as threatening and awful, as had been the plight of his people centuries earlier in Egypt. He lived to see Babylonia and other imperialistic neighbors completely overtake the Hebrew homeland and coerce his people

Jeremiah addressed these threats and the humiliation and destruction of being overtaken. He told his people to have faith that the merciful God of the Exodus again would rescue them. This weekend’s reading is a powerful acclamation of God’s power and goodness and his unfailing promise to protect and lead his people.

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

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

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

Supreme in Jewish cult, and in many 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 sacrifices 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 from strangers by the roadside in Jericho.

Bartimaeus begged simply to survive. At the time of Jesus, people with severe physical challenges, such as blindness, were reduced to begging unless their families assisted them. No social safety net protected them. They were on their own.

All bodily difficulties had a spiritual component for the ancient Jews. God willed nothing evil or heartless. Disease and incapacity were for them signs of evil committed, even if by forebears.

When Jesus healed, the effects and power of sin were overcome. Key to Bartimaeus’ healing was his faith.

Reflection

Jeremiah was hardly the only ancient Hebrew writer who concentrated on the mercy of God displayed in the Exodus. All saw God’s mercy as everlasting. God is eternal and unchanging.

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

Just as hardships and great worries troubled the ancient Hebrews in Egypt, and long after they had left Egypt, sadness and difficulties confront us today in COVID-19, injustice and disillusionment.

We cannot control everything, but the loving God of the Exodus, with us because of the reconciling death of Jesus, still comes to our aid. We, as Bartimaeus, must acknowledge God and wholeheartedly trust in the Lord. †

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