A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day:

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

October 28 30th Sunday of the Year (B)

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Jeremiah 31:7-9). I will comfort the blind and the lame as I lead them back. The prophet Jeremiah fearlessly preached divine punishment, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and exile to Babylon because of the people’s abandonment of the Lord and the serving of pagan gods (idols). He was not listened to and all his prophecies came true. Judah was destroyed. All that was left was a remnant of the former Israel and Judah in exile in Babylon. But Jeremiah also prophesied that after this chastisement God would save his people. Together with other prophets such as Ezekiel and Second Isaiah he preached in God’s name that their God was the good shepherd who would take care of his people and gently lead them back to a new future in the homeland. Chapters 30-33 of the Book of Jeremiah are known as the Book of Consolation with a series of such prophecies and promises for Israel. Today’s reading envisages Israel on the homeward journey, no military march, but the remnant of God’s people, saved from annihilation by his loving care. They will come along the road from the north, by the recognized route from Babylon to Palestine. It is not a band of warriors. The weak among them are highlighted: the blind, the lame, those with child, the pregnant. They are a great company returning home, and the Lord assures them that he will comfort them as he leads them back, as the good shepherd. Theirs is a joyful journey of a people full of happiness for their very survival and of hope for the future. The Responsorial Psalm read today expresses these sentiments well.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 125[126]). What marvels the Lord worked for us. Indeed we were glad.

Second Reading (Hebrews 5:1-6). You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, and for ever. This reading concentrates on the Jewish high priest, on his role as intercessor for mortals, called on to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin, and with the apparent natural consequence of this, that he should be able to sympathize with the weak, the ignorant and sinners since he is from among them, and bears human weakness. We should not forget that what the author of this epistle has in mind here, as throughout, is the contrast between the human high priest and Jesus the true High Priest. What the Jewish high priest was expected to be, Jesus, the true high Priest, now at God’s right hand is, and does, all the more so. Jesus is fully human; he has lived and suffered as any human does, and thus fully understands human weakness. He is one that can be approached freely by the weak and sinners. And just as in biblical tradition the Jewish high priest was “called” by God, as Aaron, the first in the priestly line was, so also was Christ.

Gospel (Mark 10:46-52). Master, let me see again.This simple miracle story takes on a much fuller meaning when viewed in the overall context of the plan of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is now at Jericho, near the end of his final journey to Jerusalem, and this passage finishes a long section by Mark about discipleship (Mark 8:31-10:45), ending as the passage begun with the story of the healing of a blind man. The story of the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26) tells how he was given back his sight only gradually. The account is probably an “acted parable”, indicating the passing from the restoration of natural vision to the coming of the vision of faith in Jesus and discipleship. Not every gift of faith in Jesus is a Damascus Road experience. The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida is followed by Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi. Peter, on behalf of the Twelve, expressed faith in Christ, but failed to grasp the demands of discipleship and was reprimanded by Jesus for this (Mark 8:31-9:1). From there on, until the present episode with Bartimaeus, Jesus has been making clear the demands of discipleship. Bartimaeus calls for help. When asked by Jesus what he wants him to do for him, Bartimaeus replies: “Rabbuni, Master let me see again”, to which Jesus replies “Go; your faith has saved you”. Bartimaeus’ faith had saved him. Jesus did not work miracles where no faith was present (see Mark 6:5-6; Jesus at Nazareth). Mark’s language in presenting Bartimaeus’s healing is regarded by many as almost certainly deliberately evocative. The passage represents (as probably the healing of the blind man at Bethsaida) as an acted parable. Bartimaeus has regained physical sight, but seems to have been brought to a deeper vision of salvation, and is presented as having followed Jesus along the road, most probably becoming a disciple.

B. The Bible in Dialogue with Questions of the Day

Looking forward with Christian vision

Personal and community vision sustains in times of distress and give direction in distress and in prosperity. We have good examples of what this means in this Sunday’s readings. Israel, God’s people, had sinned, and from any human point of view had little hope of any future. But the prophetic voices that challenged them when sinful, brought confidence when all seemed lost. Christian vision is not something heroic, for the few. We have seen the apostles and other followers struggle with faith in Christ, and being gradually brought to a deeper vision of their Christian calling.

            There is great need today for believers in Christ to renew the Christian vision of what life here, and hereafter, is about. The New Testament presents such a vision, and the early Church lived it. In Christ there was a new creation: “Behold I make all things new”. The Christian vision of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, and Christian life in general has moulded society for centuries. It has influenced art, literature, and many walks of life.

            The Christian vision of life is centred on Christ. It is for all believers, not just for the few. It is something is lived. It gains its strength from Christ’s promise to be with his Church always, just as the God of Israel had promised his own people in time of distress and exile. Awareness of sin, of failure on the part of clerics or others, may dim this desire to pay attention to Christ’s vision of life. But this should not be so. Failure in one way or another is part of history. The apostles and the first followers of Christ are not presented in Mark’s gospels as models. Quite the contrary. The failure of God’s own people before the exile and during it did not impede later prophets from putting before them the great vision of their future. God would be with them.

            Today we can learn from the message of scripture not to dim our Christian vision, or become despondent from weaknesses and sins within the Church. Faith is something that develops, from partial blindness to full vision. Let us pray that the Church, all of us, may regain the Christian vision, and come to a better understanding of the Church’s mission, to proclaim Christ as the light of all nations, the light of humanity.

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