Conrad Pepler O.P. 30th Sunday of the year
Yearning for a promised land
Jeremiah c31 vv 7-9; Hebrews c5 vv1-5; Mark c10 vv46-52.
DESPITE John Ryan's cartoon of some weeks ago. Jeremiah was not always the prophet of doom. even though in the English language to be a Jeremiah suggests a figure of misery. His misery arose from his insistence that the people should 'go quietly' into exile. But he also foretold the return home after that exile. with which joyous good news he joined Isaiah.
Today's reading reveals the joy of the remnant of the people returning to their homeland. Looking beyond the actual release from Babylon Jeremiah sees the event as the type of the Last Day when the people are gathered from the farthest parts -of the earth; those who suffer will be restored to fullness of health.
The chapter continues with rapturous descriptions of the effects of the redemption. "The Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him." In view of the reading from the Gospel of Mark. our attention is drawn to the rejoicing of the blind in particular.
It is not they will see a beautiful scene in their restored vision — the ruins of Jerusalem with its temple, as the exiled refugees see Beirut on returning home in these days. But what they actually see is transformed. not simply by the very fact of being able to see at all. but by the freedom given them by the Lord with the consolation of his love and protection. In a sense this is what 'liberation theology' is concerned with today. If the poor and dispossessed of South America should be given the freedom of the land where they live and work the whole country would immediately look utterly different in their eyes. "And they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord. over the grain. the wine. and the oil. and over the young of the flock and the herd." (v 12) We should pray that the liberation theologians may soon be able to show these disposessed their land.
And here is Bartimaeus, sitting on the side of the road from :Jericho to Jerusalem. He knows of Jesus's powers and also of his royal stock — 'son of David.'
This truth is by now quite widely acknowledged. Shortly after this as Jesus enters Jerusalem the crowd shouts: "Blessed is the kingdon of our father David that is coming," (c 11 v 10) Bartimaeus gets his way through perseverance and much shouting. and led before the Lord he asks that he may see.
The miracle was accomplished and he did see. We may wonder how his image of the "Son of David" matched up with the reality when he saw him in the flesh. But for subsequent Christians the miracle is a parable of the vision given suddenly with the light of faith.
The second reading — Hebrews c 5 gives us the key that will open this door. that sheds the light of the eternal day into the shadowy interior of our daily lives. Jesus. the Son of David. is the great high priest who has all the qualifications and fulfils all the functions of a high priest but in an infinitely superior manner.
This is really what the letter to the Hebrews is all about. the fulfilment by Christ, the high priest. of all the priestly sacrifices and functions of the Old Law. The high priest is called by God from human kind to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin.
Hitherto the priest had first to offer sacrifices for his own sin; but now the great high priest. while having the weaknesses of human nature. has no sin. so that he can 'deal gently*, have compassion. with blind and therefore erring man and he offers the sacrifice and gift of himself to rid the human race of sin.
He has the authority. the priestly power and the commission to do this by his birth when the Father appointed him. "Then art my son, today I have begotten thee" (Ps 2 v 7) The door is thus opened. the light shines in. the blind see.
But the light is brilliant and in its brilliance the eye with its restored power can faintly make out the dim figure of Melchisedech. the priestking. But the author returns to this strange person a little later in the second reading next Sunday.
So for today our job need not be rimmed by puirlernent