Thirtieth 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. He was the son of Hilkiah, a priest. He acted as a prophet for over 40 years.
Being the son of a priest, in all likelihood he was quite 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 because they were 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 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 overtaken, with faith that the merciful God of the Exodus again would rescue the people. This weekend’s reading is a powerful acclamation of God’s power and goodness and assures that once more God will protect and lead the people.
As is typical of this book, this reading literarily is moving in its eloquence and feeling.
For its second reading, the Church presents a selection from the Letter 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 the sacrifice in the temple.
The Letter 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, 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, persons with severe physical challenges, such as blindness, were reduced to begging unless their families assisted them. No social net of security protected them. They were on their own.
All bodily difficulties had a spiritual component for the ancient Jews. God willed nothing evil or heartless, so disease and incapacity were 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.
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 and 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; COVID- 19, injustice, disillusionment.
We cannot control everything, but the loving God of the Exodus, who is 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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