30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 (3)
October 28, 2018
The Bible is the story of God’s people. It is not just history. It does not just tell us what happened a couple of thousand of years ago. It does tell us what happened with the people in the stories we read in the Bible but it is not just their story. It is our story.
It is our story because it tells us how God has cared for his people when they followed him and when they chose to stray and sin. It is the story of God’s love for his people, the love that He offers us today. The story of sin and God’s forgiving love continues today.
Our first reading today comes the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived 600 years before Christ. As the book begins, the northern kingdom has fallen and the southern kingdom is about to fall. Jeremiah preaches a call to repentance to those in the south (a call we still need to hear today) but the people do not listen. They even plot to kill Jeremiah because they don’t like what he is saying.
Since they do not repent, God allows them to be defeated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem is destroyed and many of them are taken away in exile. This is where our passage today comes in.
The Exile had only recently begun. It will last for 70 years but through Jeremiah, God is already promising an end to the Exile. They will “shout for joy” when it happens. The Lord will deliver his people from sin, bringing them back, gathering them “from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst.”
I think it is important to recognize the significance that the prophesy includes the blind and lame. In ancient time, the blind and the lame were helpless and left to beg like Bartimaeus into today’s gospel.
God does not leave the blind and the lame on their own. They too are God’s children. After all, in our sin do we all not become blind to God. In sin, we are lame in our ability to follow God’s ways.
Often, we think of sin as purely individual and we fail to recognize how our sins impact other people. Sin involves how we treat people. Thus, it affects how we relate to other people. We become distant and unloving.
Is this not what is happening in our world today? As individuals we are becoming more self-centered. We fail to value life. We see it in the womb when life is not received as a gift. We see it when we fail to recognize the needs of the hungry, thirsty, sick, dying, and migrants.
Then we wonder why there are shootings in schools, malls, and restaurants. It is because we have turned away from God. We do not follow Jesus as the way and the truth and the life.
God gave the Israelites free will just as we have free will today. The Israelites chose poorly and God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their sin in exile. Only after being defeated by the Babylonians did they come to repent. What is it going to take before we repent today as individuals and as a society?
When people sinned in the Old Testament, they went to the priest to ask the priest to offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins. As Hebrews states, the priests were called from among the people. That means they too were sinners. God called, and still does today, men who were sinners to be priests. In being sinners themselves, they “deal patiently with the ignorant and erring.” The priests know what it is like to struggle with temptation.
The sacrifices offered by the Old Testament priests were the sacrifices of animals in accord with what we read in the Book of Leviticus. These sacrifices were not perfect and thus had to be offered over and over.
Then Jesus came and offered a perfect sacrifice as only He could offer. His sacrifice is perfect because He is perfect as He is consubstantial with the Father. Since his sacrifice is perfect, it does not need to be repeated. Since the primary role of a priest is to offer sacrifice, one might think we would no longer need priests today but here I am as your priest.
Priests today do offer sacrifice but it is not a NEW sacrifice. The sacrifice offered by the priest today is the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, giving his life for the forgiveness of our sins. However, again, it is not a new sacrifice. It is the sacrifice that Jesus offered in his Crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins made present for us today at the altar in a way that only God can do, transcending time and place.
As priests are ones who preside at our celebration of the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, priests are also the ones who offer absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where our sins are taken away. Sin blinds us to God’s way and God restores our sight.
Two of my favorite things to do as a priest is celebrate the Eucharist and hear confessions and absolving people. My third favorite thing to do as a priest is teach (the second Spiritual Work of Mercy). By teaching I mean helping people understand what it means to follow Jesus. This begins in homilies. It goes deeper when I offer presentations on topics of faith. It also continues in my website.
Priests are also called to be present to people in the difficult moments of life (Spiritual Works of Mercy #’s 1 and 4) like funerals and illness, helping people to know God is present in the moment.
Priests are also called to a role of leadership in the parish as the bishop’s representative.
We are all called to follow Jesus. We need forgiveness for the times when we sin and so let us be grateful, “filled with joy,” and embrace the gift of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation made possible by Jesus’ sacrificing his life for us. I truly believe it is a gift when we have sinned. That’s why I just went to confessional myself while I was on retreat.
We need instruction in God’s ways so that we can better follow him.
What do you need forgiveness for? What is going on in your life where you need God’s guidance to live as his disciple?