30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Jeremiah provides this weekend’s first reading. 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 acted as a prophet for over 40 years.
This weekend’s reading is a powerful and expressive acclamation of God’s power and goodness, and in the assurance that once more God will protect and lead the people.
As is typical of this book, this reading is very moving in its eloquence and feeling.
Being the son of a priest, Jeremiah in all likelihood was quite familiar with the traditions of the ancient Hebrews. He would have been particularly aware of the Exodus, the flight from Egypt and slavery, events that molded the Hebrews into one distinctive race, and that resulted in their settlement in the Holy Land.
The Hebrews did not escape Egypt simply because they were lucky, or because they were clever. Instead, they succeeded in fleeing the miseries 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 those that confronted 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 the humiliation and destruction of being overtaken, with faith that the merciful God of the Exodus again would rescue the people.
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 A.D. 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 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 humankind in sacrificing to God, causing 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 Bartimeus, a blind man, who begged by the roadside in Jericho. It is no wonder that Bartimeus had to beg in order to survive.
At the time of Jesus, persons with severe physical challengers, 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 heartlessness that came from sin.
When Jesus healed, the effects of sin also were overcome. The key to Bartimeus’ healing was in his faith.
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 God is eternal and unchanging. God is not forgiving and blessing in one instance, while 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, but the loving God of the Exodus, with us because of the reconciling death of Jesus, still comes to our aid. The key is that we, as Bartimeus, love, and trust in God.
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