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The Road of Gathering, Exodus, and Salvation

A Scriptural reflection on the Readings for Sunday, October 22, 2021

Detail from "Christ Healing the Blind Man" (c. 1650s) by Eustache Le Sueur [WikiArt.org]

Readings:
• Jer 31:7-9
• Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
• Heb 5:1-6
• Mk 10:46-52

“In the beginning,” states Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one” (par. 13). God’s plan of salvation involves being liberated from sin and death. It also involves being liberated from that place to this place, of being moved from one state in life to a radically new one.

The prophet Jeremiah, writing during the Assyrian exile, which began around 740 B.C., pointed toward a time when the faithful return to the Promised Land and the Temple. “Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north,” the Lord declared through the suffering prophet, “I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst…” This is one of many Old Testament passages describing such a gathering. Today’s Psalm expresses the hopeful expectation of exodus from exile, “when the Lord brought back the captives of Zion.”

Israel’s history was deeply shaped by captivity, exile and exodus. The Exodus from Egypt was a formative event for the Jewish people. Most first-century Jews believed that the Messiah, the “anointed one,” would gather together the scattered people of God. Those who heard Jesus announcing the Kingdom of God heard the promise of a renewed Davidic kingdom marked by political and cultural autonomy.

But, as Lumen Gentium explains, the focus of the Messiah’s regathering was not national boundaries and political power. “It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, that he might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God” (par. 13). Jesus, the heir of David, would conquer sin and death. Jesus, the high priest, would sacrifice himself for the sake of the world. The entire world was in exile in the realm of sin, and the Messiah—who was also a new Moses—would lead the people of God in an exodus from the darkness of spiritual slavery into the light of salvation.

Jesus, in announcing the Kingdom of God, notes Bishop Robert Barron in The Priority of Christ (Brazos Press, 2007), “was not calling attention to general, timeless spiritual truths, nor was he urging people to make a decision for God; he was telling his listeners that Yahweh was actively gathering the people of Israel and, indirectly, all people into a new salvific order, and he was insisting that his hearers conform themselves to the new state of affairs.” The son of David was gathering the lost, the wounded, the lame, and the blind, and he continues to gather them into the Church, which is “God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 761).

The encounter between Jesus and the blind man, heard in today’s Gospel, is a microcosm of this gathering. It took place on the cusp of the Passover, as Jesus made his way with the crowds going to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover—the feast marking the Exodus. The blind man, Bartimaeus, knew the identity of the Jesus and twice called upon him, “Son of David, have pity on me.” How did he know Jesus was the Messiah? How did a blind mind see the truth so clearly? How could a beggar possess such rich knowledge? And, conversely, how did so many people with sight remain blind? Why did the wealthy and the powerful so often reject the riches of Christ?

Jesus simply said, “Call him.” His disciples then called Bartimaeus, and he threw off his cloak—which represented his old life (cf. Rom. 13:12; Eph 4:22)—and came to Jesus. “Master,” he said, “I want to see.” Jesus healed him and told him to “go your way.” And Bartimaeus followed the Messiah on his way to Jerusalem, the Cross, and the Resurrection, the road of gathering, exodus, and salvation.

(This “Opening the Word” column originally appeared in the October 25, 2009, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)


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About Carl E. Olson 1165 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications.

4 Comments

  1. The son of David was gathering the lost, the wounded, the lame, and the blind, and he continues to gather them into the Church, which is “God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 761).

    In the Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
    “God sends them to gather (Matthew 9:37-38) not just the good to the wedding feast (Matthew 22:10) but to gather both the good and the bad (Luke 18:10-14).

    God is like a king who invites us to a banquet. Many refused their invitation so his slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so, the wedding hall was filled with guests.
    ‘The anonymous guest, someone from “the main highways,” perhaps homeless, almost certainly destitute, where was such a one to come on a festive robe?

    If we transfer this statement onto the spiritual plane, it could be said the homeless and destitute are those who have lost their home (Church) and are ensnared in evil situations and need spiritual help now, in the present moment.

    I was about twelve years old when I first recollected hearing this parable, but could not understand how not having a wedding garment could result in such harsh dealings with the individual concerned, which caused me a great deal of distress and anxiety at the time, as I took the parable given by Jesus at face value, thinking possible he had no way of providing himself with one and so I could not understand this cruelty.

    About fifty years later I read somewhere on the internet, of the Jewish custom at the beginning of the first century AD, of the Father of the groom providing wedding garments free of charge for the invited guests, so I now realize that those who originally heard this parable would have known instantly that the custom of the day was that the wedding garment was provided ‘free’ of charge, and had to be worn no matter how well one’s own apparel may be, dignitaries, etc. would conform to this custom as did those with poor apparel, not to do so would be an affront to the Bridegroom.
    This garment also created equality (mutual respect) amongst the guests.
    I now believe that the name of this garment is humility; we can deduce this because we are told that one of the guests had no garment, to those hearing this parable they would have instantly concluded that he was arrogant, by refusing to wear the free customary garment of compliance offered to him.
    He wanted to be accepted on his own terms, as he was, in his own/self-image (ego). He was gagged, (his opinion no longer able to contradict (offend) God), his stance so offensive that he was bound hand and foot and thrown into the darkness never to be able to repeat the same action again.

    This reflection has drawn me back to the original time when I first heard the parable. It appears that my prayer and anxiety at the time, concerning the individual who had been thrown out, gagged, bound hand and foot, into the darkness, had now been answered, as I now understood the parable. Also, I had been given the means, The True Image of Divine Mercy an image of Broken Man, to play my part to draw anyone who cannot take part in His Wedding Feast (Holy Communion) to come in from the darkness unfettered, dressed in humility and partake of His table.

    The core of the ongoing challenge in all of the gospels is one of spiritual enlightenment, as in “repent” ~ to change direction (the transformation of the human heart). This can only come about in wearing the wedding garment of humility, before our Father in heaven.

    “The wedding garment is sanctifying grace”, (C.f. Rite of Baptism)
    while only humility can ensure that we remain dressed in it.

    Please consider continuing this reflection on humility (St. Bernard – Humility is a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself.” Via the link
    https://acireland.ie/amoris-laetitia-the-joy-of-love-reviewed-by-aidan-hart/#comment-10034

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  2. Restoration, the highly meaningful theme of this essay, as author Olson distinguishes not a resurrection of the glorious ancient Israel of King David, rather restoration of man leading to resurrection. “In the beginning, states Lumen Gentium God made human nature one”, the ground for our unity the natural law within. Our Catechism teaches quoting Irenaeus contra Haeres that the Decalogue is really a reminder of the law within we tend to blanket with personal concern, imaginative folly. The latter, the madness of Trans and the rest. Like Bartimaeus, Man needs to see clearly. The author develops ending his theme Bartimaeus following Christ to Calvary Cross and Redemption. Exodus is added, signifying for this writer a moral exodus from Egypt, the world as it is with all its depravity, alluring side paths presumed to lead us to the Promised Land. Christ instead assures us that his crucifix suffering must be embraced. That there are as noted elsewhere [ST 1a2ae 94, 4 Ad 1 that there are moral principles revealed in the Gospels that exceed natural law, but that contain, and fulfill natural law] moral principles the gift of the Holy Spirit required for our salvation. Most of us are not willing to see with eyes wide open the embrace of the Cross inferred in Bartimaeus’ restoration of vision.

  3. Frankly I really enjoy reading your weekly articles on the upcoming Sunday’s Reading. From each article I learn something new and in many cases a lot.

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