Homily 30th Sunday Year B: Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Jer 31:7-9; Ps 126:1-6; Heb 5:1-6 and Mark: 10:46-52.
You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek
These words from the Letter to the Hebrews first of all, remind us of the story of Melchizedek and Abraham, our father in faith, in Genesis 14. Here, Melchizedek- a righteous and compassionate king, with no father, no mother, no genealogy, who welcomed and blessed Abraham on his return from rescuing his nephew, Lots, from the conflicts of wars and threats posed by the eastern kings. "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek" also, and perhaps most importantly reminds us of not just the contrasts between the levitical priesthood and the priesthood of Christ, but stresses the person of Christ: a prophet like Jeremiah, a wounded healer, a righteous king, a friend of the poor, and of the ignorance, a healer of the blind, and a compassionate high priest long foretold by Israel’s prophets, particularly Jeremiah in today’s 1st reading.
Jeremiah witnessed the fall of Jerusalem. He saw violent and experienced sufferings, wars, tragedies, destructions and crimes committed against his people. As we would come to see in the life of Christ, he was arrested, imprisoned, tortured, spitted upon, cajoled, and thrown in to a muddy cistern to die, in his attempt to preach hope, love and endurance.
Today, whatever our challenges, might be: illnesses, ignorance, confusion, different voices in terms of what the family unit and marriages should be, or the experience of unjust socio-political structures, racism, high taxes, terrorism and conflicts all over the globe, it is this message of hope that Jeremiah offers us today. He says, “The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel (of which we are)…behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst.”
It is always our faith that Jeremiah's hopeful prophesies would be fulfilled in Christ, who in today’s gospel extends his healing hands upon Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). In this drama of faith we are told, Jesus was on his journey to Jerusalem when he encountered Bartimaeus, sick, poor, blind, dirty, sitting and begging on the road side for a living. What is interested in this story of faith is that he was not asking for more money from Christ as some contemporary blind people that we meet today on our streets would do. Bartimaeus rather, wanted to see. And he achieved it by beating all obstacles. He would not be dissuaded by faithless by–standers. Bartimaeus pushed on. With deep faith, he recognized Christ as the Son of David, and as the true source of mercy, daily emphasized by Pope Francis. This is true in Bartimaeus words. He said to Christ, “Son of David have pity on me… I want to see.”
Powerful words delightful to many preachers and commentators today, and which should also be our guiding words in time of trouble, loneliness, rejections, disagreement, not knowing the right answers, sufferings, illnesses, loss of our loved ones, frustrations and shortcomings. In these moments we are called to play Bartimaeus. In other words, our various shortcomings, irrespective of cultural locations, could be characterized as our blindness-that only he, Christ, our compassionate high priest can healed.
Most importantly, if Christ our sinless, compassionate high priest watches our backs, loves, heals, forgive us, we are bound through our baptismal and sacramental promises, to imitate him, the righteousness priest, in our relationship with one another, particularly, the poor, the sick, and the less-privileged.