Jeremiah 31, 7-9
- Shout with joy for Jacob. From
the opening words I hear a joyful message. How can I read it with indifference? But
how can I capture the mood? Let me take heart from the faces in the assembly today, some of whom have come
from very far away. The psalmist longed for the time when he would lead the rejoicing throng into the house
of God. If I am already prepped for this by a happy event in my family or some other personal success,
that can help.
- The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel. Behold,
I will bring them back. The prophet is relaying the promise of a return.
When I read ‘delivered’ I will think ‘liberate.’ And I want ‘remnant
of Israel’ to sound like something more than just a set of random survivors, certainly something more than an anticlimax
or afterthought – I will project a sense of admiration for these families who have come through the bitter test and
remained faithful to their God and to their ethnic identity. The emphasis will be on the God who sustained
them, but they are much more than passive partners in salvation history.
- Yes, God takes center stage.
Listen to these actions: Deliver, gather, console, guide,
lead. Their return is no accident, no mere happening in the footnotes of a long-forgotten
empire. God, the creator of heaven and earth, desires their return.
- And they? From
the land of the north, from the ends of the world they come. An immense throng, with the
blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child. I hear the connection to
today’s Gospel, in which a blind man receives his sight and his insight, and becomes the only one healed by Jesus who
is reported to follow him. I do not hear of invincible armed forces, but of defenseless people under God’s
- And what awaits them? Brooks of water, the simplest gifts and the
most necessary for life, something everyone can share. A level road, so that none shall stumble.
I repeat every detail, in my faith that God will leave none of us behind no matter how long it takes us to begin our
return, our conversion.
- Climax: Why, we ask, does God make such a fuss. I am a father
- Message for our assembly: Can we see the hand of God, a higher providence,
in the random events of our lives? Is it our fate as a nation just to be more powerful, or less powerful,
than other nations? Are we as a church condemned to merely reclaim past prominence? Might
God be calling us to a different kind of return?
- I will challenge myself: To suggest in my voice a greater vocation for our church
than we can imagine or hope for.
2. Hebrews 5, 1-6
- My listeners may
associate this reading – just as I do when I first hear it – with the priests we know in parishes.
The author lived in a time just after the high priesthood of Judea had ended, and he has referred to Jesus as the ‘great
high priest.’ He speaks of Jesus in the images of his time and place. So how will
I read the account of every high priest?
- Actually I hear many references, and always have heard them, that can apply very
well today. But to whom? To the ordained clergy alone who are called priests in relation
to the high priest Jesus? Or, more amply, to the people who are called a royal priesthood?
That is the message of the Vatican Council’s document on the Church. That is why I will apply
the lesson in a broader way, beginning with the way I gaze and speak when I say the first word ‘every.’
- From among
men: from among all the people of the world, in the sense of a leaven in the mass. I speak these
words in as universal a way as I can master.
- He himself is beset by weakness: I
hope we recognize that we fall far short of our calling. And no one takes this honor upon
himself but only when called by God. All of us were called to this ministry.
God takes the first step, when we begin and throughout our acts of intercession.
- In the same
way… Then I hear the reference to Jesus. The
one who said to him, You are my son. The author of Hebrews
avoids using the divine name, as do devout Jews and as we should do more frequently. Let me make it clear,
without any doubt, that we are referring to the divinity.
- Climax: In the same way—it was…
As I begin the second half of the reading I will make this judicious pause to remind my listeners that a transition
message for our assembly: All of us are called by God to carry on a priesthood in the midst of our age, in imitation of Christ.
- I will challenge myself:
To guide my reading with the awareness of our priesthood as a church.
Gospel. Mark 10, 46-52
Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizeable crowd. I notice that a lot of folks
are walking up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast – and for other ominous things. I need an slower,
expansive voice to get that across.
- Bartimaeus, a blind man, sat by the roadside begging.
The old thesis-antithesis again, as the evangelist zeroes in from the panoramic view of the erect and advancing pilgrims
to one small pitiable man nearly lying on the ground. But we know his name, and that means he forms a parallel
with Jesus in our minds.
- The blind man’s cry breaks through the noise of the pilgrims and through the reverent
silence of our assembly. Jesus, son of David, have pity on me. He cries
repeatedly, all the more, after many rebuked him, telling him to be silent.
Bartimaeus did not apologize for annoying the people, and neither should I today.
- The evangelist uses
many action words that make the scene memorable, especially about the blind man who cried, called,
threw aside his cloak, sprang up and came to Jesus, and finally received his sight and followed him.
- Go your
way. Your faith has saved you. Every disciple in our assembly longs to hear
these words addressed to them. Let me say it so that it reaches every corner, so that no one feels neglected
- Climax: Call him. My focus shifts back to Jesus, where it
for our assembly: Everyone has a name in our assemblies, no matter how humble our state. Jesus asks: What
do you want me to do for you? How wonderful, how heavy with responsibility, too, is this sense
of control over our lives and our salvation!
- I will challenge myself: To repeat the urgency in Bartimaeus’ voice, and the dignity
of Jesus in responding to him.