Bringing the exiles home

By: Father Doug Grandon

Thirtieth sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 25

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126:1-2,2-3,4-5,6; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52

“BIGGEST THING to happen ecclesiologically since the Reformation!” That’s how my friend, Church of England Bishop Andrew Burnham, described the Vatican’s announcement last Tuesday about “personal ordinariates” for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.

“Desperate bishops invited Rome to park its tanks on Archbishop’s [of Canterbury’s] lawn,” announced the headline in the London Telegraph. Among the “desperate” bishops was Bishop Burnham, who traveled to Rome last year to make his appeal to Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, as well as other Vatican officials. (See the related stories on Page 1.)

“We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican Communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart,” Bishop Burnham wrote this week. “It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome. Following the decision of the . . . Church of England . . . to proceed with the ordination of women to the episcopate, we appealed to the Holy Father for help and have patiently awaited a reply. This Apostolic Constitution . . . [represents] . . . an attempt to allow all those who seek unity with the Holy See to be gathered in without loss of their distinctive patrimony.”

What have Anglican converts been granted? The privilege of having a non-geographical ordinariate (diocese) in the United States, England, and elsewhere; a former Anglican bishop or a former Anglican priest (necessarily celibate) who will serve as the bishop of that Anglican ordinariate; the option of using the Vatican-approved, Anglican-use liturgy in their parishes, and the right to train and ordain married men for Catholic priesthood.

IN 722 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel, following its most abject betrayal of the Mosaic covenant, fell to the invading Assyrians. Sargon II then deported the cream of the conquered population to his capital in distant Nineveh.

In today’s first reading from Jeremiah 31, we find God’s encouraging promise that he will one day bring those captives home: “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, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng. They departed in tears, but I will console them and guide them; I will lead them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble. For I am a father to Israel.”

This week’s responsorial Psalm reflects a similar moment, most likely the return of Judah’s exiles from Babylonian captivity in 538 B.C. I never read Psalm 126 without remembering how its words were so beautifully put to music back in the 1970s by a Jewish Messianic group called the Liberated Wailing Wall: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy! When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing.”

THE PSALMIST notes that even pagan observers were impressed with the miraculous nature of the Jewish return. “Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them!'” He then acknowledges, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad indeed!”

The Psalmist then prays for the spiritual renewal of the nation: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert!” One can visualize parched and desolate river beds in the American Southwest quickly filled with raging water, once rain has fallen high up in the neighboring mountains.

“Those who sow in tears” (Haven’t we all felt like our efforts have all too often failed to yield sufficient results?) “shall reap rejoicing. Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves.”

IN THIS WEEK’S Gospel reading, Jesus responds to blind Bartimaeus’ cry, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus stopped and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus replied, “Master, I want to see!”
“Go your way,” Jesus commanded, “Your faith has saved you.”

Today, all of us should rejoice that Jesus is doing what we have long wanted him to do. He is opening blind eyes. He is bringing his exiles home — not from Assyria or Babylon, but from Canterbury, Wittenberg, Geneva and countless other Protestant capitals.

One insider noted, “I think this is the beginning of a Grand Realignment not just of the Anglican world, but of Christendom. A Russian Orthodox priest I know says his metropolitan is about to fly to Moscow to urge the patriarch to “talk faster” with Rome so the Anglicans won’t get ahead of the Orthodox and steal the show.

“When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing!”

Father Douglas Grandon is parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish in Moline.

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