1st Reading – Jeremiah 31: 7-9
This is a reading of compassion at a time of exile and hardship.
What do you think of when you hear the word, ‘remnant’? The thesaurus lists these ideas: remainder, relic, leftover, residue, trace, vestige, scrap, end . . . Yet, in Hebrew scriptures this remnant was the few and the faithful who would survive because of their faith in the Lord. They are a ‘motley lot’ but they journey with a God who loves them and who cares for them like a father for his first-born.
This ‘remnant of the needy’ shows us a spirituality that has learned to depend on God for survival and salvation. They were in need and disadvantaged: blind, lame – mothers and mothers-to-be – without husbands. They needed God’s consolation and guidance – and each other’s support. This is a constant theme that echoes throughout the Hebrew Scriptures: “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” (Ps. 34:6; Sirach 21:15).It is meant to challenge all of us: if God is so concerned for the needy, how can God’s people be otherwise? (Preaching Resources, October, 2003)
Ephraim was the second son of Joseph, but he received the blessing of the first born from Jacob instead of Manasseh. Jacob crossed his hands so his right hand was blessing Ephraim instead. Ephraim is one of the tribes of Israel (another name for Jacob), but he represents all of Israel in this reading. How does this prepare us for the gospel?
The 2nd Reading – Hebrews 5: 1-6
Who is Melchizedek? See Genesis 14: 17-20. Melchizedek means ‘king of Salem [peace] and priest of the Most High’. He embodied ‘mysteriousness’ since he seemed to have no history – no family or lineage. Thus, he also stood for a priest with no limits of time and space; he offered bread and wine and blessed Abraham in the name of God Most High, creator of heaven and earth, who delivered him from his foes. He seemed to transcend history with an eternal connection to this God. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus comes ‘in the line of Melchizedek”. (Birmingham, W& W, 696)
From Bishop Matthew Clark’s Forward in Hope: Vatican Council II affirmed that pastors have the “duty to shepherd the faithful and recognize their ministries and charisms so that all, according to their proper roles, may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart” (LG, 30). For from Christ “the whole body, being close joined and knit together through every joint of the system, according to the functioning in due measure of each single part derives its increase to the building of itself in love” (Eph 4:16). We are all called through our baptism to be priest, prophet and king. Like Melchizedek offered bread and wine as an offering to God, so we offer ourselves and our own gifts in order to fulfill the whole body of Christ.
The Gospel — Mark 10: 46-52
In what ways can Jesus help you to see?
This gospel is at the end of chapter 10; chapter 11 is Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. This whole ‘journey-section’ is sandwiched between stories of the cure of two blind men — the blind man from Bethsaida (Mark 8: 22) and this story of Bartimaeus (‘son of the unclean’ is perhaps the meaning of the Hebrew words). Between these two stories of blindness we find the three passion predictions, each one followed by graphically embarrassing stories of the disciples’ blindness as they fail to understand Jesus’ mission. Take some time to look over this section of Mark’s gospel and pray with it this week. (Living Liturgy, 2003, 233)
*Notice the contrast between the disciples of last week along with the story of the rich man who ‘saw so well’ that he had kept the law perfectly. Note also how Jesus asks the same question of both Bartimaeus and James and John: “What do you want me to do for you?” The answers are in sharp contrast showing us what true discipleship is – and what it is not . . . Jericho was the last stop for a pilgrim on the way to Jerusalem. At the outskirts of this ‘suburb’ there would be a throng of beggars hoping to receive alms from those who are going up to the Temple. Bartimaeus jumps up quickly and readily lets go of his ‘cloak’ when Jesus calls. (The cloak was the only means of support for a blind man: he would spread it on the ground and use it to catch the coins that were thrown his way. It was also his only cover against the cold, wind and rain.) Bartimaeus – without possessions or ambition – asks for sight. When he receives it, he follows Jesus on the way – which as we see in the very next section is the way to Jerusalem and to the cross. (Birmingham, W&W, 698-700)
What is this faith that has saved Bartimaeus? Observe how this ‘faith’ is acted out: Bartimaeus heard Jesus, cried out to him, persisted in his prayer, came to Jesus when called, spoke boldly of his need, and when he finally ‘sees,’ he follows Jesus with the crowd down the road to Jerusalem . . . Bartimaeus gives us a blueprint for being a true disciple. (Living Liturgy, B, 232)