Saturday, October 27, 2018

Mookie Betts and the Kingdom of God


This is a sleepy week for Red Sox Nation – especially after last night’s record setting 7 hour, 18 inning World Series Game. I have to adjust my prediction now to Red Sox in 5 games! My favorite moment of this World Series so far is, actually, not anything that took place on the field, but rather the actions of one player off the field - Mookie Betts. Mookie has had one heck of a season and is on a well-deserved course to be named MVP. But, in addition to his skill as a ball player, I always love to watch the pure joy with which he plays baseball. Watching him is like watching little leaguers in their childlike thrill for baseball. He just seems like a great guy.

That was confirmed this Wednesday. 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 insisted 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 nearby shopping cart, they loaded it with tin foil trays, plastic silverware, napkins and wet naps, and cases of bottled water. 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 will likely be the MVP, that the Sox won a record 108 games this season and is two wins away from a title. You see, he didn’t act in his capacity as a baseball celebrity. He acted in his capacity as a human being – one who had the choice between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing. He chose the right thing. Betts is baffled by the attention he has received, as he considers it an ordinary act of kindness.

I was thinking 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.

First the name Bartimaeus in Aramaic 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. On the other hand, the name Bartimaeus in Greek means "son of honor." And so, by giving us this name with its 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 destiny and 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 increasingly fractured world, Bartimaeus is all around us. We encounter Bartimaeus, like Mookie did, in the many homeless and hungry on the streets each day. We see him in the people whose human 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 turns people into sons and daughters of defilement; not worthy of our time, our concern, our care, or 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 this week. 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 were broken, in reconciling relationships that were 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 is for us to choose to be healers too – we 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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