October 21, 2009

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Brian Pizzalato *

First ReadingJer. 31:7-9

Responsorial PsalmPs. 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

Second ReadingHeb. 5:1-6

Gospel ReadingMk. 10:46-52

In 930 B.C., King Solomon’s reign over the 12 tribes of Israel would end in utter disgrace because his heart was turned to the gods of his 700 foreign wives (cf. 1 Kings 11:1-10). After this, the united twelve tribes would divide – ten tribes to the north (now called the Kingdom of Israel) and two tribes to the south (now called the Kingdom of Judah).

The northern kingdom of Israel was profoundly idolatrous from the start. God had warned them to change their wicked ways through prophets such as Hosea and Amos, but to no avail. God would deal with their wickedness in 722 B.C. by allowing the Assyrians to overtake the northern kingdom. The Assyrians deported many of the northern Israelites to other nations and repopulated the land with foreigners.

The southern kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah, was not much more faithful to the Lord and also abandoned him through idolatry. Through the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel and Micah, God warned them to change their evil ways and eventually allowed the Babylonians to overtake the Kingdom of Judah. The Babylonians began to exile those in the southern kingdom beginning in 605 B.C., and later, dealt Judah a deadly blow by taking Jerusalem, destroying the city, its walls, and most importantly its temple.

The reading from the prophet Jeremiah for this Sunday is a word of comfort and hope regarding the return from exile, and the restoration of the kingdom. “Behold, I will bring them back from the north country [Babylon]…among them the blind and the lame…” (31:8).

In Jesus’ day, however, these promises seemed to have gone unfulfilled. Even though Judah physically returned from exile 70 years after the beginning of their captivity, they remained under foreign domination, first under the Greeks, and then under the Romans. Since, the return from Babylon there was also no reigning king in the Davidic kingdom. In Jesus’ day, they still await the Messiah, the anointed one, the new king.

As Dr. Mary Healy recognizes in her book, The Gospel of Mark, “One of the promises associated with the coming of the messiah was the opening of the eyes of the blind” (p. 217). It is not a coincidence that it is a blind man who calls out to Jesus, referring to him as the “Son of David.”

The blind man will be cured of his physical blindness by Jesus, but in his blindness he already sees more clearly than most of his contemporaries. His referring to Jesus as the “Son of David” is indeed a proclamation of faith. The blind man recognizes that Jesus can heal and save him, and that this also means that Jesus, the Son of David, is there to restore the kingdom and bring the world itself back from exile, captivity and bondage.

In his blindness he sees the restoration of the Davidic kingdom which had lay in ruins for hundreds of years, even though God swore to David that his son would reign on his throne forever. The prophet Samuel told David, “Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son…and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever” (1 Samuel 7:11c-16).

Here we have the covenant made with David sung about in Psalm 89:3-4: “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: I will establish you descendents forever and build your throne for all generations.”

If we read further into Jeremiah, in the same chapter 31 read for this Sunday, we hear, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (v.31). Of course Jesus, the new and everlasting Davidic king, will definitive restore the kingdom, by establishing the new covenant in his blood.

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on www.profamilia.ro).

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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