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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Mass at Mother Seton Shrine

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The deacons and I took a photo together after the 4:00 PM Saturday Mass at the Mother Seton Shrine in Emmitsburg. It was the Fall Meeting for the MD State Knights of Columbus.

October 28, 2018

[149] Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Jeremiah  31:7-9 / Psalm 126 / 2 Hebrews 5:1-6 / Mark 10:46-52

God’s people from the Northern Kingdom are returning home from their exile imposed first under the Assyrians.  The Lord has appeared to them on their return and the scene is reminiscent of the Mosaic exodus.  The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled and Jeremiah shares with them their joy from God.  He tells them to praise God saying, “The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel.”

The Lord also calls to his children in the Church.  We are summoned as his new People of God from “the ends of the world.”  The apostles would preach the kingdom into the lands of the diaspora and the Gentiles.  We are made a new nation of prophets.  Just as Jesus went out to poor and the oppressed, healing the blind and the crippled; the Church is also commissioned to “console and guide them.” The Church is the New Israel. While the responsorial carries this theme of joyous restoration, in the Church it is so much more.  It is both a consummation and a new beginning.

Our fundamentalist friends often equate the New Zion with the institution of the current political state of Israel.  However, the Catholic Church sees herself as the New Jerusalem or Zion to which God calls his people.  Instead of liberation from the Egyptians or the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the Romans, God’s people are delivered from bondage to suffering, sin and death.  We are no longer the devil’s property but have been redeemed by Christ, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah and the Savior of the world.

While the only crown Jesus would wear in mortal life was one of thorns, it is in the Lord that the earthly or Davidic kingdom is united to Christ’s eternal or divine kingdom.  We are invited into this kingdom through faith and baptism.  More than simple subjects, we are anointed as a royal household— adopted sons and daughters of the Father, kin to Christ and with Mary as our Queen Mother.

The Christian ceremony of baptism for children has us anointed into Christ as “priest, prophet and king.”  The house of Jesus is a priestly one where we are called to take up our crosses and to follow the Lord.  Priests offer oblation.  It is within our baptismal priesthood that we render loving sacrifices to God and for others.  We join ourselves with the successors of the apostles, the ordained priests, so as to offer ourselves with the Lord at Mass to the Father as an acceptable sacrifice.  We seek to be transformed in surrendering ourselves with the eternal Lamb of God.

Paul’s letter to the Hebrews compares the Jewish priesthood with the priesthood of Christ.  It is clear that an old order passes away in favor of the new.  “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus is our true high priest before God and he offers the sacrifice of his very self for our sins.  This new People of God will have its own leadership and order.  The authority given to the apostles is quickly understood to have a sacerdotal dimension; they and their successors are sharers in the one priesthood of Christ.

The blind beggar calls Jesus by a messianic title, “Son of David.” The crowd is embarrassed by him and tries to silence the poor man.  He refuses to shut up.  Jesus stops and tells them to call him.  Their posture changes and they are suddenly supportive of Bartimaeus, saying, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” Notice what he does— he threw his cloak aside and proceeded to Jesus.  This in itself demonstrates faith in the person of Jesus.  He trusts that he will be able to see so as to retrieve his cloak.  What Jesus does next might sound absurd.  He asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Was it not obvious? The man says, “Master, I want to see.”  Why did Jesus ask such a question? We must remember that the many miracles of Jesus always pointed to deeper realities.  Everyone healed would become ill in the future and die.  I suspect he was looking for a more profound response— like “I want to be holy” or “I want to follow you” or “I want to be saved.” Yes, the beggar immediately receives his sight; but again, we must notice the words of Jesus.  He says, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” This man not only received a healing but absolution.  Light came to his eyes and his soul is also enlightened.  Jesus confirms his faith, even though he may have hoped for a more profound response.  Look at the text.  Jesus tells him to go on his way and we are next told that the beggar “followed him on the way.”

The expression “way” would come to mean the way of faith as a Christian, literally our Lord’s summons to take up our crosses and to follow him.  This walking with Christ is our participation in the new exodus of Jesus… as children redeemed to walk in the freedom of Christ.  We are called to leave our old lives behind and trust that Jesus will open our eyes to follow him in the Christian life.  Our saving faith in Jesus Christ is not simply a profession of faith but is one of transformative unity with the Lord.

The theme of exodus has the subjects both leaving something and moving toward something.  The elements of exodus are uttered in the cry, “Repent and believe.”  We move away from our former life of sin and move toward a new life of faith and obedience to God.  Every time the priest gives absolution to a soul that was in mortal sin, there is an exodus from bondage to freedom— from death to life.  This pattern is true for groupings of people and for individuals.  Missionary endeavors seek to bring the Gospel to whole classes of people.  The spiritual life focuses on a personal exodus experience for individuals.

It should also be noted that we are sometimes reluctant to participate in an exodus.  The Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron: “If only we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!” (Exodus 16:3). Unhappy with the struggle of their journey, many wished they had never left Egypt.  Similarly, at the time of the restoration, many of the Jews refused to return to Jerusalem as they had integrated into their Babylonian exile and lived comfortable lives.  Indeed, some remained but sent resources with departing Hebrews so that they could rebuild. We can face similar struggles and temptations in the spiritual life.  People can become comfortable with their sins.  Bad habits or vices can direct lives and make it difficult for grace and virtue to change direction.  An important point is at play.  God makes possible the exodus, but you have to want to go.  This is not unlike the old anecdote, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  It is an unfortunate truth that some prefer bondage to freedom and thirst to the cup of salvation.

  • Are there things holding you back from being a true companion with Christ and his people “on the journey”?
  • The story of the exodus became an important part of the Seder celebration for the Jewish people. What is your own exodus and Passover story?
  • Unlike the people of Judah, the other Jews of the diaspora and exile were never formally given an opportunity to return to Jerusalem. Are there people or forces that would keep you in bondage and in exile from God?
  • As a sharer in Christ’s priestly love, what are the chief sacrifices that you have made for the kingdom of Christ?
  • As a member of the royal household of God, do you see yourself and others with God’s eyes— as having an “incommensurate” value in terms of human dignity and life?
  • Have you been faithful to the great commission as a prophet of Good News, witnessing for Christ and his Church? (Often this translates as practicing the faith and raising one’s family in the Church and in union with parish faith formation programs.)
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