Sunday, October 14, 2018

Homily – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Safety Bubble

Wisdom 7:7-11
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-30
Jesus has just burst the bubble of a rich young man who thinks he’s doing everything right. He’s following the Law of the Church. He gives to the poor. But Jesus expects more of us.  Much more.    
           Remember the story years ago about the Bubble Boy?
Young American boy David Vetter suffered from a severe immunodeficiency disease. It required him to live inside a bubble, a sterile chamber where his parents could only touch him through the use of plastic gloves attached to the chamber walls. 
Bubble boy was such an intriguing news story that it was featured in a memorable 70’s movie starring John Travolta, in a popular 80s song by musician Paul Simon, and was even part of a popular episode on the TV show Seinfeld in the 90s.
            Isn’t it true that we all tend to live inside our own safety bubbles?  These are physical, psychological and spiritual bubbles of security. 
Jesus is here to pop our bubbles.
For some, our safety bubble is the size of our 401K or retirement pension. For others, our safety bubble is our nice home or fancy car. For others, our safety bubble is our circle of like-minded friends or our political persuasion.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is focused on the rich young man and his inordinate attachment to his wealth. The man has put his faith and trust in his riches, not in Jesus.

Jesus knows “security in possessions and in money can pull people away from depending on God as the true source of (our) lives, here and hereafter.”
In Jesus’ day, riches were seen as a sign of God’s favor, blessing and right relation.
 Do we sometimes think the same thing today?
            Jesus is telling us there’s so much more to life if we just allow him to pop our bubbles, put our trust solely in Him, and follow Him into the Kingdom, and to the poor.  This is God's mission of love for us. 
            I was reminded of these bubbles we tend to live in during a recent Maryknoll mission immersion trip to Jamaica.  For most Americans, Montego Bay, Jamaica, is the place of white sandy beaches and all-inclusive luxury resorts. This is the safety bubble most live in when visiting Jamaica.
            But this is not where the real beauty of Jamaica is found.
            We found that beauty working with a group of Korean nuns, serving in the barrios of Montego Bay, handing out bags of groceries and school supplies to those living in shacks in the poorest part of town. The smiles on the faces of the adults and children were a just glimpse at the expected smiles to be found in Heaven.

            We found that beauty spending the day with physically and intellectually disabled young people at a place called Blessed Assurance located in a mountainous area just outside town. There we experienced joy and laughter like never before.  Our presence was met with an abundance of happiness and love, as we helped these young people with their art projects, told jokes, played, and at lunchtime helped to feed those who could not feed themselves.
          We found that beauty visiting a Catholic hospice where we met Jesus. His real name was Renville.  He fell out of a bread fruit tree nine years ago and is permanently confined to a bed due to a broken back. He lost the use of his lower body and has only partial use of his upper body. But Renville proceeded to share with us his own love of Jesus, a joy for living, and proclaimed a homily that would put any homily to shame.  We spoke for a long time, and at the end of our chat, he drew me in close for a big hug, and whispered in my ear, “If I get to heaven first, I’ll save you a seat next to me. I’ll be the first to welcome you home.”
My brothers and sisters, this is the real beauty of the Kingdom of God. This was the real beauty on our mission trip to Jamaica. Not the artificial beauty found at luxury resorts, behind locked security gates and all-you-can-eat gourmet restaurants. 
When Jesus pops our safety bubbles, we enter into the Kingdom. And in these encounters we find more beauty than is found at any beach resort.
The bubbles we live in even extend to how we see the world.
            Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia recently wrote on Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire website, “Informationally, the world is ever-broadening, but our interests continue to shrink as we close in on ourselves. In our reading, our entertainment, our news venues, our social media, our political involvements, we seek out echo chambers we may depend upon to repeat US back to ourselves in a reassuring loop, with dissenting ideas continually pruned away for the sake of purity. Settled within virtual enclaves of the like-minded, we bask in an illusion that most sensible people think as we do, and when we are forced to venture out beyond our unsullied orthodoxies and ideologies the world feels increasingly dangerous and disordered. We cannot wait to get back to our ‘safe zones’ which are really just aspects of ourselves reflected back to US.”
            She goes on to say, “We used to read about ‘the boy in the bubble’ and feel sorry for him. He was trapped within a limited world free of exposure to even the ‘good’ germs and bacteria that keep our immune systems adept, functional, and ready to withstand and beat back infection. Now, we have become him. Though our bodies may wander freely, we keep our minds and spirits tethered to what is comfortable, unchallenging, and pristine, until our mental and spiritual immune systems become so weakened that a mere difference of opinion feels like an assault.”
            These are just a sampling of safety bubbles Jesus wants to pop in our lives.
            So, what bubble do you need Jesus to pop in your life?
Jesus is calling us all to greater encounters and relationship-building far beyond our comfort zones.
But will we walk away like the rich young man, or join Jesus in serving the Kingdom?

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