Bartimaeus, Jeremiah and You
Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.
Sunday, Oct. 25, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle I).
At 9:30 a.m. Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI will close the Synod of Bishops for Africa. The last synod for Africa was in 1994 — and it’s unusual to have another so soon. But consider Africa’s last 15 years: More than half of the country’s bishops were named in that time period. The continent’s Catholic population increased by nearly a third. There are 20% more parishes. There are a third more priests. There are 20% more women religious.
The growth of the Church is accelerated in Africa, and, thus, so is the need to manage it. Would that every continent needed a synod as often.
Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126:1-6; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52
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Today’s first reading is an example of radical trust in God.
It’s written by Jeremiah, who has a reputation as a doom-and-gloom prophet because he saw so clearly the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem and the tragedy of the exile of the Jewish people — and wrote about it forcefully.
Jeremiah saw failure throughout his life. He pinned his early hopes on Josiah, a reforming Judean king who was strict about the Law. He probably expected Josiah’s religious revival to be blessed by God and to lead to greater days. But Josiah’s campaign ended on the battlefield. After his death, under Josiah’s successor, Jehoiachin, Jerusalem fell into idolatry, and then fell into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
A false prophet proclaimed that God would hand a victory to the Israelites anyway. Jeremiah tried to stop a foolhardy revolt, but failed. Nebuchadnezzar retaliated against the upstart Jews by destroying Jerusalem.
It was in the wake of that defeat that Jeremiah delivered the prophecy in today’s first reading. It announces not only Israel’s rescue from exile, but a “new covenant.”
The Psalm today records the people’s joy when the first part of that prophecy came true. The second reading — about the new high priest, Christ, and the new priesthood “in the order of Melchizedek” — is an elaboration on the covenant prophecy of Jeremiah.
It wasn’t human wisdom that allowed Jeremiah to make such a prophecy at the most inopportune time — when it was most likely to be rejected and misunderstood. It was, simply, the truth.
Today’s Gospel shows how this lesson can apply to each of us in the circumstances of our own lives.
Bartimaeus knows that Christ is passing by, and calls out to him. It seems a futile effort. After all, the walls of a city are lined with beggars. Why should his cries be any more fruitful than anyone else’s?
Yet “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me,” he continues to call. He doesn’t care that Christ isn’t showering him with attention. He doesn’t care what people around him think. He doesn’t care that people who should know better are telling him his quest is useless. He just calls out to Christ his simple request.
He is rewarded. Jesus replies: “What do you want me to do for you?”
We can expect the same reply from Jesus when we call to him persistently. And the blind man shows us how to answer: “Master, I want to see.”
This is a simple request on his part; and it’s analogous to what we should request: “Master, I want to see. I want to know your presence. I want to see sin for what it is. I want to see the truth of the choices I face. I want to see you for who you are on your terms, not guess at it in darkness.
“I want to be like Jeremiah in the ruins of Jerusalem — aware of the grave limitations of my circumstances, but even more aware of the hope inherent in your world.”
That’s a prayer Christ is all too ready to answer.
Tom and April Hoopes were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine. Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and a former Register editor.