Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52
One of my “all-time favorite” Gregorian chant melodies is attached to the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary time. The proper Entrance Antiphon for Mass this Sunday and the entire week is the beautiful text from Psalm 104, verses 3 and 4: “Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice; turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.”
I wish I could sing for you the (to my ears at least) sublime yet simple melody that accompanies the Latin text: “Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum: quaerite Dominum, et confirmamini: quaerite faciem eius semper.” I have always loved the melody ever since I first heard it many years ago on a recording perhaps by Benedictine monks of En Calcat in France or perhaps of Maria Laach in Germany.
Here at Christ in the Desert we will sing it at least several times during the coming week, either in Latin or with the English text and a melody based on the Latin one. So good is the text and tune that it is also assigned to the Fourth Week in Ordinary time. Very few of the chants have this distinction of being assigned more than one week in the liturgy of Ordinary Time.
That being said, what tremendous encouragement the Entrance Antiphon for this week proclaims. It clearly speaks of the continual need for all of us, young and old and in between, rich and poor alike, to search for the living God, because without God we can do nothing really. But with the help of God we can long for, seek and find the source of all happiness: God our savior.
We say about people who are at odds with us, or have something against us, that they cannot look us in the eye. To look at the face of another and to meet their gaze immediately implies and creates a relationship, even if superficial. In a prolonged or loving gaze, each gives the other a sense that they matter to each other. A certain commitment is created. This is what is supposed to happen above all between us and God. Of course that is the greatest of all relationships and commitments.
In the first reading for Mass this Sunday the Prophet Jeremiah, writing some six centuries before the birth of Christ, speaks of a return from exile, a hoped-for joyful reunion of scattered peoples. In the mind of the prophet, it is ultimately the Lord who delivers the people and brings them home. Jeremiah sees this as comparable to the love and commitment of a father for his child. This image of God is one who takes on the role of leadership, guiding even those who cannot see and have difficulties in their lives just getting about.
God is a Father who makes sure his children get to everything that is life supporting, most especially water and a level path, so that the people may not faint or stumble on their way. The joy that is announced in the Entrance Antiphon for Mass is repeated in the first words of the Jeremiah reading: “Thus says the Lord: Shout with joy! Exult! Proclaim your praise!” Under the guidance of a loving God, the people can confidently do just that.
We might ask: do I now or ever feel in my deepest being such enthusiasm for God, for the one who delivers and ultimately saves me? This is the God who is always the same, and yet whom I can know so much more intimately since Jesus Christ came to show us the Father. We must ask the questions not in order to condemn ourselves for lack of enthusiasm for God, but in order to seek a deeper relationship with God and to trust in God at all times.
How much greater now, since the coming of Christ in our midst, are the “marvels the Lord works for us,” as we proclaim in the Responsorial Psalm at Mass today, Psalm 126. Do I allow myself to be truly glad, even moved and enthused at the coming of God, especially in the Eucharist or Communion we Catholics are privileged to receive at Mass? The liturgy encourages us along this path and we should make every effort to participate actively in the Sacraments of the Church offered to us pilgrims.
The selection today from the Gospel of the Evangelist Saint Mark about a blind beggar at Jericho, Bartimaeus by name, shows us one person who definitely related to Jesus with profound enthusiasm and commitment, even in his brokenness. Bartimaeus shouts out from the very first hint that Jesus is in the area. He cannot see but he can hear and sense that he is in the presence of a great and mighty worker of wonders. It seems that Jesus let Bartimaeus continue to shout, perhaps to be certain that he really wanted Jesus’ attention, and finally the Lord takes the initiative, saying, “call him over.”
Only then do the people help the blind man rather than scold him for his outburst. The crowd evidently did not want to offend Jesus, hence their previous attempts to silence the blind beggar. Then comes the response of the blind man to the call of Jesus. Bartimaeus jumps up, the Gospel text tells us. In the original Greek the word is almost a notion and motion of resurrection. No leisurely hanging about here! Furthermore, Bartimaeus throws aside his cloak, probably his most prized possession, which served as well as a covering at night, and ultimately a shroud at death. If the cloak had any pockets they contained whatever else he owned.
At call of Jesus the blind beggar casts off his earthly security in the deep desire to be healed by this man in whom he was putting his faith. Even now Jesus does not immediately do what is obviously desired by the beggar. Jesus seeks further cooperation from Bartimaeus by asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?” With great respect and using the term “Rabboni,” that is, “Great Teacher,” the man tells Jesus, “I want to see,” and his great faith is rewarded. Apparently without even going back for his cloak, Bartimaeus, now with sight, follows Jesus.
A relationship has been formed through that look into the face of Jesus, first as a blind man, now with sight. It is a lesson that the eyes of the heart are more powerful than physical sight. The first person the blind man actually saw was the one who brought the needed healing to his life.
Certainly, as we pray the prayer after Communion on this Sunday, we would do well to let this “celebration have an effect in our lives.” How could we fail to be really happy when we are given such a picture of a loving God to whom we go through his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ?
We are encouraged to hear the Lord say to us, “What do you want me to do for you?” We can do some serious soul-searching as to what we really want from God, and with the faith of the blind man, ask it of God, so that we too may look into God’s face and so deepen our relationship with the God who saves us. “Seek always the face of the Lord”!
Fr Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico