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Contents: Volume 2 - Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered Time Year B October 24th, 2021

 

30th

SUNDAY

Year

(B)


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 30 B 2021

The Gospel story about Bartimaeus is a familiar one. It is also one that contains one of those important spiritual questions that all of us should answer periodically. Jesus asks: "What do you want me to do for you?"

Bartimaeus seeks Jesus because he has a physical obstacle to his wholeness. We may as well, but the more critical area for each of us to examine concerns any obstacle to our spiritual wholeness. The question becomes personal, something like " What is it that Jesus could do for me to help me ...... do the Father's will in my life?... or be a better Christian?.... or respond more lovingly to others?... or????

It may be tempting to distract Jesus from helping me/you by asking him to do something for someone else to make life in general better. This is really a deeply personal question, however. It is a direct offer from Jesus, an offer of infinite love and healing! Maybe it will be a gift of the Holy Spirit or one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. What is it that I/you will ask of Jesus? It just might be a life-changing gift!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered Time October 24 2021

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Responsorial Psalm 126; Letter to Hebrews 5:1-6; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Timothy 1:10; Mark 10:46-52

Last Sunday’s first reading just will not leave me alone. "The LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity?" In that reading from Isaiah, God comes off as a sadist, delighting in the pain and suffering of one of his own. More to the point, God seems to especially delight in the suffering of a special chosen one. What are we to think about this? Then we look to the cross and hear Paul’s statement: "He was obedient to death, even death on a cross." How is it that we listen to and attempt to follow the Lord so bent on suffering for his people? Should we be looking for opportunities to suffer just to please the Lord? Was Shakespeare right when he suggested that death was a shuffling off of a mortal coil? Is the singer Sting right when he sings of human life as "soul cages?" Perhaps we should just set this aside as one of the mysteries of God?

This Sunday we hear from Jeremiah. He was called at an early age to be prophet to the nation of Judah. True prophets look at current situations and allegiances of the people and the nation and point to what happens if the leadership and its people fail to have a change of heart. That is the threat side of their preaching and teaching. They have the vision to see that suffering and doubt and darkness have the power to bring us to a new vision of life and God’s intervention. And so they warn and point out deficiencies.

Last week, Isaiah told us that suffering has the strength to call us to a change of heart. So, it was during the Babylonian captivity. As painful as was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Solomon Temple, as horrific as were the streets running red with the blood of fellow citizens and extended family, as difficult as was demeaning slavery, these terrible sufferings brought about a renewal in their relationship with the God who freed them from Egypt centuries earlier. During that Babylonian period, as harsh as was the forced march from their homes into the slave quarters of Babylon, the people turned to God for hope. They found in the four traditions of their history hope. And in the suffering servant of Isaiah, they discovered a new Moses, a new Joshua, and a new David. They knew that God would send one and his work, his suffering would renew their spirits. They would again be a people with a covenantal relationship with God. The people turned to their history with God. Once again, in a foreign, hostile land, they celebrated the great feasts that remembered God’s loving kindness. And hope rose and truth flourished in their communities as they celebrated their blessedness. In all this, the people lamented their failures. In all this God stood waiting for their return to him so that the people once again sought and accepted God’s living presence among them.

It helps to remember that Jeremiah lived in troubled times – much like our own. Leadership sought its own advantage and power rather than the common good. God’s living presence in the Temple was thrown away. In God’s place in the Holy of Holies, false idols were set up as the power to be worshipped. We remember it was Jeremiah, the prophet we read this Sunday, who secreted away the Ark of the Covenant into the mountains, sealing up its cave so carefully that even to this day more than two thousand years later, those items of God’s presence with the people remain hidden and secure.

In Jeremiah’s time the people turned to worship of power and wealth akin to how many in our time worship and give their integrity and dignity over to power, wealth, influence, and fame.

When the truth of God is moved, set aside in favor of the ways of the world, chaos inevitably follows. The chaos at the time of Noah teaches us that. What vision of chaos is more impactful than raging floods that respect no guidance, no boundaries, no order? Beyond this early legend of the great flood, those who study recorded human history understand the destruction, death, and horror created by such failures.

Jeremiah’s words this Sunday are not about what happens when man fails. This reading assumes destruction, death, and horror has already aroused human spirits to seek answers. It speaks to what happens when God is with his people, when God intervenes in human history. The narrative presumes the people have had a change of heart, a repentance of their failure to abide by the covenant. Jeremiah brings us a glimmer of hope even now in the terrible struggles in our world. That struggle is a terrible conflict against the freedom and equality necessary among the many diversities that exist in our world experiences. Racism, sexism, materialism, secularism, militarism, and all other isms that threaten peace and good will toward others tear at our emotions, our allegiances, and our hope for the common good. Political power seems hell bent on a return to autocracy and tyranny. Such a return signals a new slavery to the power of a few. For many, such forces have nothing to do with faith and God’s presence. Faith is not part of the equation. How very flawed is such thinking. It is a matter of past and future history. How humanity responds will set the pathway for the future for humanity and the common home of all. Will the choice be the Way of the World or the Way of Jesus?

Jeremiah paints a word picture of what happens when God is returned to the center of hope and freedom. The return is to the City of God, to Mount Sion where the Temple of God, God’s home on earth, rises above the ways of the world. That presence of God is a bright light providing vision to the seconds, minutes, and hours of human life. Every person – great or small, born or unborn, woman or man, child or adult, gentile or Jew – can see. Jeremiah paints his word picture as a journey back to Jerusalem. The lame no longer limp, the blind gain 20/20 vision. Reality, creation itself is seen as a revelation of the creator. Those on this journey jump, sing for joy, and dance in the destination of their journey. Fear, violence, loss of purpose has been overcome.

The longings of the hearts and minds of Jeremiah’s nation are satisfied. All those forced into exile and slavery come home. The reunion is a massive march, and immense throng. And the road is made smooth, there is potable water aplenty. And God’s Self consoles and wipes away tears. There is no fear of marauders or brigands. Even newly born and their recovering mothers are in the throng. No one stumbles. For God takes on the role of Dad who loves deeply and intensely each returning person. It is a glorious picture where no one gets tired, no one stumbles, no one suffers from thirst. That is Jeremiah’s vision of the return to the Kingdom of God that comes with the Servant. All peoples, clap your hands, shout with joy to the Lord your God who saves, leads, and preserves you!!

Let us look at the reading from Mark’s gospel. The reading from Jeremiah is meant to prepare us for Mark’s message. Jesus is leaving Jericho – that place and city through which Joshua led the Hebrew nation into the promised land. We should understand the significance of Jericho in this story. Mark signals that this trip to Jerusalem is a return to the Promised Land. It is a return of the remnants of the Chosen People to the City where God dwells with them. Jesus is returning to Jerusalem to reinstate God’s reign.

Bartimaeus is introduced as a blind man. His father is named so that he has a history, has reality and not a made-up alternate reality created to make a point. Persons who lose the power of one of their senses tend to overdevelop other senses to make up for the lack. This Bartimaeus, an insignificant beggar whose blindness causes him to be pitied, has heard about this Jesus. He heard the conversations of passers-by. Jesus’ healing powers would have been known. Bartimaeus shouts out "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me." David, of course, despite all his sinfulness, was considered the model of just kingship. After Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, the kingdom made one by David, that kingdom was torn asunder. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and the southern kingdom Judah.

Return for a second to the reading from Jeremiah. He calls on the people to shout for joy for Jacob – not for David. Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes that made up the whole of the nation. Yet, Bartimaeus – in the words of Mark – calls on Jesus as the successor to David, not Jacob. Jacob was a tribal patriarch, David a king of a nation. Bartimaeus’ shout named Jesus, king of the entire nation – that included the remnants of the northern tribes and all those others who had lost their nationality and covenant relationship with God who freed them from Pharaoh. Jeremiah’s vision speaks of the God who frees the nation from the excesses and idolatry of Babylon and from the evil of lives that brought on the destruction of Jerusalem.

Bartimaeus’ plea for sight implies much more than a healing of sightless eyes. Jesus tells the healed Bartimaeus to "go his way." Was Jesus telling him to continue life as a beggar? Was Bartimaeus to go home and become a contributing part of family and village life? Or is this Jesus giving Bartimaeus a choice? Is the way that Bartimaeus is encouraged to follow the way of Jesus? Mark answers that question. We may think what Mark means is that this former blind man walks in the crowd that follows after Jesus. And that is the end of the story. Why then did Mark include this miracle in his gospel? Jesus was leaving Jericho and headed toward Jerusalem. His message, his way of living, his vision of God’s Life within the people required Jesus to confront the errors of the Chief Priests and of the leadership of the Sanhedrin. That confrontation included confronting the civil authority in the person of Pilate. The truth of Jesus’ way needed a witness that would be forever remembered and imitated. What more of an impactful, long lasting witness is witnessing truth and goodness and God’s abiding presence by giving one’s life for that truth, that goodness, that presence?

So Bartimaeus received his sight, not only for seeing creation and forming relationships with others. He received insight into the person, message, and revelation that is Jesus. His was a cure of body but one that reached into his very heart. It was from his heart – the tabernacle of faith in humans – that his mind understands. The gospel this Sunday encourages us to believe as did Bartimaeus.

The question for each of us this Sunday is this: Are we blind? The terrible blindness of spirit robs us of the joy of our march to Jerusalem. When we open our eyes to the words of revelation that is Jesus, we see our gift of life differently. Even in the suffering of our times from which we are called, we find joy. That call of Jesus to "bring him to me" causes us to move, to seek change in our hearts. Always, the heart is first. The mind is secondary but necessary in choice-making. Suffering comes to us from the world and those who seek to be gods. As hard as suffering is to endure, it can be a pathway to Jesus, Son of David. Suffering can be a way of leaving the status quo of mediocre living and allegiances. Suffering allows us, encourages us to see, to understand, and to love. Suffering gives us cause to pause and consider. It can be an opportunity to have our sight restored to us.

Thus, when Isaiah speaks of God as pleased to see his servant crushed with infirmity, God is looking at how suffering can be a turning point. God is not a source of suffering. God holds out his arms to embrace those who suffer to bring them to a new awareness of God’s presence. God does not need to send us suffering. Suffering is part of the territory of the world in which we live.

May our prayer this day and every day of our lives be: "Jesus, son of David! Please, that I may see!"

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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PRAYING IN PAIN: 30TH SUNDAY B

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52

Now and then we come across people about by things that happen to them. We’ve seen e.g., people on television in deep grief because a loved one has been murdered, or been killed in a car accident, or their house with all their belongings has just burnt to the ground. In the face of such disasters, they may sit on the ground with their heads in their hands, rocking from side to side, or they may just stare blindly ahead. In their extreme pain, they are often incapable of saying even one word about what they are feeling. So, when someone asks: ’How are you feeling?’ or ‘Is there anything I can do?’, or ‘Can I bring you a cup of tea or coffee?’ there’s just no answer. The victims of sudden disasters simply cannot answer anything at all. In their numb state, they are feeling just too much pain and too much shock even to hear what is being said to them.

The first step to easing their pain is for them to find a language to express it. So, we are not surprised to find in the pages of the bible a language to express the pain that comes from loss, and the pain that comes from fear. They are prayers of lament, lamentations of one kind or another. What they have in common is that they are cries from the heart, shouts of suffering, groans of anguish, and even screams for help. One we will soon come across is in the Responsorial Psalm for our 33rd Sunday: ‘Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.’

Cries, shouts, and groans to God when people are in acute pain not only help people express themselves. They are also expressions of hope that things can get better. Lamentation, then, is not pessimistic, it is trustful. It refuses to remain powerless and passive in the face of pain, frustration, disappointment, or disaster.

When that poor blind beggar Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is nearby, he shouts his desperate lament: ‘Son of David, Messiah Jesus, have pity on me.’ But some of those nearby resent him expressing his pain and shouting for help. They tell him to just ‘shut up.’ But Bartimaeus knows that if things are ever going to change for the better, he must communicate to Jesus the loss of his sight and his lack of any income to buy food, clothing, or any of the necessities of life. Having been blind nearly all his life, he’s had enough of living in his world of total darkness, and he’s just not going to take it anymore. So, with the arrival of Jesus on the scene, he’s convinced that right here and right now is his only chance of a brand-new start.

His cries for help stop Jesus in his tracks. He tells the bystanders to reach out to Bartimaeus by calling him over. They now change their tune. ‘Courage,’ they say, ‘Get up; he is calling you.’ Softly and tenderly, Jesus asks him: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ When the blind man blurts out his desperate plea, there and then Jesus heals him and praises him for expressing his faith in Jesus, his life-saver. Saved by that faith, Bartimaeus goes on to use his newly restored sight to follow Jesus along the road, as his newest and most enthusiastic disciple.

So, this marvellous healing of the blind man takes place as the result of a prayer of lamentation. Its story reminds us that in our frustration and anger over bad things that happen to us or others, in situations of acute pain, it’s quite all right and indeed advisable, to give vent to our feelings, and even, like Bartimaeus, to yell or even scream at God for help. After all, God is big enough, great and good enough, to absorb all our cries of pain and all our cries for help.

But if, on the other hand, we’ve been brought up to think that the religious response to pain and suffering should be silence and passivity, then we won’t ever pray those prayers of complaint and lament to God that we need to pray. We’ll just take it all on the chin, and fall into a crumpled heap of depression and anxiety. To do that, however, means that we will be depriving ourselves of a language to state our suffering. Instead of honestly telling God our loving Father and Mother exactly what we are thinking and feeling, our prayer will be a kind of polite and reverent game of ‘make-believe’.

We will also deprive ourselves of the possibility of divine help and healing in one form or another. Just as Bartimaeus touched the heart of Jesus and found the comfort and healing he needed in his life-long predicament, you and I will also find that our prayers of lament will go straight to the heart of God. In every painful situation and especially when we find ourselves or others burdened with unbearable pain, may we also hear Jesus our Saviour saying to us too, those same tender and gentle words he spoke to Blind Bartimaeus: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

May the Passion of Jesus Christ and his everlasting love be always within our minds and hearts!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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