Bulletin: October 24, 2021
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s reading from Jeremiah, Israel’s sorrowful and suffering prophet, whose readings usually signal and prepare us to hear Jesus’ Gospel suffering, is from Jeremiah’s “Book of Consolation.” Jeremiah sets aside traditional sorrow and instead bids God’s chosen people—and us, as God’s baptized covenant people—to celebrate the Lord’s miraculous “harvest”: “Shout with joy; exult; proclaim your praise” (Jeremiah 31:7). In this “harvest,” God declares Israel already “delivered,” while promising to transform a “remnant” (31:7) into “an immense throng,” “gathered from the ends of the world” (31:8). Though these people are still in need, Jeremiah declares their tears already gone, replaced by God’s consolation and guidance to living waters. As a fitting response, the great “Harvest Psalm” makes us, at least spiritually, former “captives,” whose joyous return feels like “dreaming” (Psalm 126:1). Then, Mark’s Gospel—again—shows the prophetic vision for the world fulfilled as Jesus heals, and we ourselves are once again challenged to live more faithfully our baptismal covenant.
SIGHTLESS BARTIMAEUS’ VISION
At first, Bartimaeus is not yet “on the way”—Mark’s “Gospel code” for Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and our journey of discipleship—but at least near the way, “by the roadside” (Mark 10:46). Still only on the sidelines, Bartimaeus cries out what becomes Christianity’s “Jesus Prayer”: “Jesus, son of David, have pity (most translations, mercy) on me” (Mark 10:47–48). Sightless, Bartimaeus is nonetheless fearless: “many rebuked him, telling him to be silent” (10:48). Sightless, Bartimaeus is already insightful: “son of David” acclaims Jesus Messiah. Seen in the context of baptism and discipleship, sightless Bartimaeus’ response resembles both journey to baptism as catechumen and pilgrimage from baptism as what Pope Francis calls “missionary disciples” (Evangelii Gaudium, Joy of the Gospel, 119–121).
RESPONDING LIKE BARTIMAEUS
Once healed, “illumined” as in Baptism, Bartimaeus’ discipleship response to Jesus challenges us to examine our own. Again this week, Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is our merciful high priest. Though sinless, Jesus “is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring” (Hebrews 5:2) like all high priests. Hebrews invokes Melchizedek, whose meeting with Abraham signals the joining of God’s primeval cosmic covenant made with Noah and God’s scriptural covenant with Israel, leading to “the new and eternal covenant” sealed in Jesus’ Blood. Like Melchizedek, Jesus transcends history’s boundaries of race and nation to gather earth’s fragmented, even warring factions into the great harvest of a humanity renewed and redeemed. So our baptismal commitment and discipleship’s journey bid us become instruments of Christ’s unity and peace to all whom we encounter “on the way.”
Are we sitting still, isolated, safely on the sidelines? Or do we cry out, like Bartimaeus, for Jesus’ mercy, understanding that we are bound to extend to others, ceaselessly and unconditionally, the mercy that we ourselves need? As part of that mercy, then, are we cowed into safe, respectable silence by a world rejecting Christ’s countercultural teachings, or do we dare speak up and speak out on behalf of others?