Created with dignity
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 30th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, October 24, 2021:
In Red Sox Nation today is sad today after losing this week to the Houston Astros. A week ago, we felt like a team of destiny and now we’ll be watching from the sidelines. But, as a consolation, I want to share one of my favorite Red Sox stories – and it is not anything that took place on the field, but rather the actions of one player off the field - Mookie Betts.
This story took place three years ago, when the Sox successfully made it to the World Series. After winning Game 2, Mookie went home to celebrate with friends and family. They had a huge buffet of Dominican food, and Mookie and his friends were certain they could eat the whole countertop full of chicken, steak, rice, beans, vegetables, and flan. They stuffed themselves, but finally they admitted defeat.
That’s when they had the thought, “We should go and give it away the rest.” They recalled the line of people who usually sleep wrapped in blankets, shivering on cardboard boxes, next to Boston Public Library. It was amost 2 a.m. and just 37 degrees out, and Mookie and a friend wrapped themselves in warm clothing and headed out into the night. Grabbing a shopping cart, they loaded it up with all the food. They gently woke a few people to offer them dinner, and within a few minutes close to two dozen men and women were eating. “Thank you so much,” one of them said. “We were hungry all day.”
Mookie declined to comment, and never intended anyone to find out. His friend said, “It was just the right thing to do.” None of the homeless that night recognized Betts. No one cared that he was on course to be a World Series winner. You see, he didn’t act that night as a baseball celebrity. He acted as a good human being – one who had the choice between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing. He chose the right thing.
I was reminded of this moment as I reflected on the healing story of blind Bartimaeus in our Gospel today. Of all of the healing stories in the Gospels, this is the only one where we are told the name of the person healed and so that must mean something. Mark gives us the name “Bartimaeus” – a name which is a hybrid of both Aramaic and Greek, and has two different meanings in each language.
In Aramaic Bartimaeus means "son of defilement." So, Bartimaeus could be a nickname given to him because he was a blind beggar and popular belief of the time said that blindness was a punishment for sin – so, he was defiled. But in Greek the name Bartimaeus means "son of honor." By giving us this name with a double meaning, Mark is telling us something important. Bartimaeus is supposed to be a man of honor in God’s sight, but is instead being treated as a man of defilement. What Jesus did for him was not simply heal his physical sight but, more than that, Jesus restored his God-given human dignity. “Take courage; get up! Jesus is calling you!” Jesus heals not only Bartimaeus’ eyes, He heals his soul, his dignity, his very humanity.
And, I think, this is the challenge Jesus places in our lives too. In our fractured world, we see Bartimaeus all around us, everyday. We encounter Bartimaeus in the many homeless and hungry on the streets. We see him in the people whose dignity has been stripped away because of their race, their ethnicity, their political affiliation, their gender, their immigration status, or any of the countless ways our world decides some are unworthy of dignity. Our world today constantly views people as sons and daughters of defilement; not worthy of our time, our concern, our care, or our compassion. But, Jesus once again calls us to open our eyes so that we can see everyone sons and daughters of honor, of dignity, of holiness; worthy of our love and care.
Mookie Betts did such a simple thing that night three years ago. He took his excess and gave it to those who had nothing. But far more than food, he gave them dignity as brothers and sisters on the journey. True and lasting healing lies in lifting up hearts that are broken, in reconciling relationships that are shattered, in seeking out forgiveness when we have wronged another, in looking into the eyes of someone that the world has forgotten and saying, “I see you. You have value and dignity. You are loved and treasured in my eyes and in the eyes of God.” How easy it could be for each of us to choose to be healers – we, too, have the power to heal our world.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked Bartimaeus. May our answer be the same as his, “I want to see.” Jesus, Son of David, have pity on us for the times when we have been blinded to your presence around us; especially in those who need to be lifted up the most. Master, we want to see.
May the Lord give you peace.
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