30th Sunday Ordinary Time B

A priest forever

Monsignor Patrick J. McGee was for years pastor of St. Mary’s Church, North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Although he was widely referred to (at least behind his back) as “Paddy McGee”, this priest of the Diocese of Fall River was truly venerated for his gentle pastoral way. He looked venerable too. Eighty summers had shrunken his body but not his spirit, and the pure white hair that fringed his bald head only accentuated his tranquil blue eyes.

In 1949, however, after almost sixty years in the priesthood, Paddy began to fail. He was obliged to give up his active parish work and finally confined to a bed from which he would never again rise. His two devoted curates were saddened to see him slip in and out of unconsciousness. He did not appear to be suffering much, but they knew the end was not far off.

Then, as the two assistants were watching at the bedside, Father McGee suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. He blessed himself slowly and devoutly and started the old Latin prayers that priests used to recite at the beginning of Mass. Automatically, the priests answered with the Latin responses. He went on from that point, his lips moving in silent prayer according to the order of the Mass. After a while he raised his joined hands as if he were lifting the consecrated Host.

At that point, however, his strength failed and his head fell forward. One of the curates gently helped him to lie back upon the pillow. “Give me Holy Communion,” he murmured. But it was too late. He fell senseless again and died shortly afterward.

Today’s second reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews, speaks of the priesthood of Christ. Jesus was not a priest according to the traditional Old Testament priesthood of Aaron. His Father had conferred on Him the special priesthood as the psalmist foretold: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchisedech.” In the Book of Genesis, Melchisedech the priest-king had offered a sacrifice not of animals but of bread and wine. It was this irrevocable new priesthood that Jesus bestowed on his apostles, and they passed it on to all later Christian priests. Father Patrick McGee had been called by God to be a forever priest of this order. He passed into eternity offering Christ to God.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q551: Miracles and healings like the one for blind Bartimeus don’t seem to happen much these days. Is there a lesson here?

Today’s gospel scene (Mark 10:46-52) reminds me of the peaceful tea parties that are being conducted by concerned protesters against perceived political abuses and perceived political blindness to social injustice. Many politicians can see physically, but are spiritually blind to what their policies and practices are doing to themselves and to others.

In this gospel case, the protest is against physical blindness, and the inability to do anything about it except call out hopefully for change. As expected, the bystanders verbally condemn or rebuke the protester. But Jesus sees the faith of Bartimaeus. Because of his faith, with faith’s focus on Jesus, he is healed.

What a paradox, one that is meaningful today at many levels! On the one hand a blind man named Bartimaeus cannot see physically, but can see spiritually because of his focus on Jesus. At the other extreme a self-serving politician named Senator can see physically, but is spiritually dead because he or she has lost his or her focus on Jesus!

Healings can take many forms. God empowers certain people by gifting them with skills that enable successful surgery, transplants, genetic research, and so on. God also enables others to use their gift of wisdom to select political representatives who will not blindly throw God out of the culture, but will instead base their decisions for the common good on God’s will. Those who can see with the eyes of God, with their spiritual eyes, are the ones who are doing the will of God. YOU are the one who enables the politician of your choice. Are YOU choosing wisely? Do your elected representatives’ votes in Congress reflect God’s will?

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus always responds to a prayer offered in faith (CCC #2616), and this gives us continuing hope. We need to cry out humbly for mercy for our own spiritual blindness, as well as the spiritual blindness (or perceived arrogance) of many of our politicians (CCC #2667).

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Lord That I May See

For the last six Sundays we have followed Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. On the way he has been teaching his disciples, and us, about who he is and what it means to follow him. Today, as we near the end of the journey, Jesus meets the blind man, Bartimaeus . He hears Jesus approach and begins to believe and hope that Jesus can heal him. He calls out ,”Jesus, son of David have pity on me.” It is not just a request for healing but it is also an act of faith. He recognizes Jesus as the Son of David, the messiah. Even when everybody tries to silence him he persists. Jesus calls him and asks what he wants. “Master, that I may see.” That is what we all want — to see Jesus and the healing he offers us. Jesus responds, “Your faith has saved you.” Bartimaeus comes to see not only in a physical sense but on the spiritual level. His response to his healing is to follow Jesus on the way, which we know leads to Jerusalem, to his passion and death. His encounter with Jesus is a model for all who would follow the way of Jesus, where it leads to and what comes with it.

Lord, you came to bring light to those who live in darkness. We thank you for the gift of faith and sight. Help us to see what is important in our lives and how to be faithful to it. Help us to see the needs of others and be quick to offer our help.

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