October 25, 2015 — Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Holy Scripture is filled with geographical names and references. They are in large part from the Middle East, from what is now Israel and the surrounding areas. The meaning of some Scripture may be lost to us because we are not familiar with distances and locations; time can also be a factor that is not clear to us. Therefore, it is worth reviewing what is happening in today’s Gospel in particular to properly grasp what takes place, where, and when.
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. He knows what will happen there, what must happen there, and He has tried to explain it to His followers, to His Apostles so they can understand what will transpire and why. When today’s Gospel begins, the Lord and His followers are leaving Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world located only 15 miles from Jerusalem, and situated just northeast of the Dead Sea (located six miles from Jerusalem). The Lord has already traveled some 85 miles from Capernaum to Jericho, most likely traveling along the meandering Jordan River that flows out of the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. Jesus addresses faith and hope in the Gospel.
The First Reading from Jeremiah echoes the well known 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We hear about the Messiah delivering His people and leading them “to brooks of water on a level road.” God will provide for His people. He will strengthen them for the journey, and even those who find it difficult to travel (“with the lame and the blind in their midst”) will be able to succeed with the assistance of the Lord. We know that our trust in God is paramount to be able to serve Him and others properly. Of course, we must have faith to do these things; we find our strength in faith in God.
It is affirmed in the Second Reading from Hebrews that Jesus is the “high priest.” Our priests are chosen by God, just as Jesus Himself was. The reading points out that “No one takes this honor upon himself, only when called by God.” We regularly use the term “calling” when we refer to vocations. Nevertheless, each of us also has a calling; each of us has a vocation in the eyes of God. Identifying that vocation and following it are an important part of our stewardship journeys. There is only one “high priest,” Jesus Christ, but as the Body of Christ, the Church, each of us is expected to actively participate and give of self to build the Kingdom.
As detailed in the introduction, Jesus is en route to Jerusalem for the last time. This journey will culminate with His Crucifixion and Resurrection. He and His followers have departed Jericho for the one day walk to Jerusalem. The reading indicates that “his disciples and a large crowd” are following Him. Suddenly Jesus hears the call of Bartimaeus, a blind man who was begging alongside the road, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” The fact that the blind man uses the term “Son of David” already indicates that he understands exactly Who Jesus is, the predicted Messiah. That exclamation by Bartimaeus is an example of prayer. When the crowd tries to quiet him, he yells even louder “Son of David, have pity on me.” Prayers must be consistent and persistent; Bartimaeus teaches us that. And we are instructed even more in Jesus’ response.
First of all, the Lord does respond (“The Lord hears the cry of the poor”). The blind man knew he needed “pity,” another word for mercy. Each of us needs the same, but we must humbly submit to fully receive it. Then, just as Bartimaeus heard, “Go your way; your faith has saved you,” we, too, may receive that reply, but it is dependent upon the depth of our faith. The former blind man could have gone his separate way, filled with sight and hope. However, he understands that once he has seen Jesus, known Jesus, and been graced by Jesus, he must follow Him always, with trust, love, and hope. We need to seek and find the same kind of faith.