Jesus is using a blind man to open our eyes to our own blindness in how we see the world and in how we see ourselves.
In a way, Jesus is bursting the safety bubble we all tend to live in – especially here in the United States. I am forever grateful to Maryknoll for curing me of my blindness and popping my safety bubble through several years of formation and mission.
Remember the story years ago about the Boy who lived in the Bubble? He became known as Bubble Boy to many Americans.
Young David Vetter suffered from a severe immunodeficiency disease, requiring 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 he 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. Sometimes they make us blind to the problems of the world.
Jesus is here today 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 performs a miracle on the man born blind. The beauty of the story is that this man comes to see the truth and then shares with others his faith in Christ Jesus, while those who might consider themselves faithful to the Law of Moses prove themselves to be blind and faithless.
As Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see and those who do see might become blind.”
In Jesus’ day, blindness was seen as a curse from God’s, a sign of a person out of a right relation with God due to something they or their parents did to offend God.
His own disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned to make this man blind?”
Do we sometimes think the same thing of others? Are we blind to their pain, their misery, their challenges? Does our judgment of how they live their lives impact our response (those experiencing homelessness, those living on welfare, the undocumented crossing our borders)? Or has Jesus opened our eyes to see their humanity?
Jesus is the light of the world. He wants to pop our safety bubbles, and shine a light into our souls so we might see the world through his eyes, especially see the poor and marginalized. And feel the call to enter into God's mission of love.
I was reminded of these bubbles we tend to live in during a Maryknoll mission immersion trip to Jamaica a few years back. For most Americans, Montego Bay, Jamaica, is a 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 a man named Renville. He fell out of a bread fruit tree years ago and was 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 for you 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 see the Kingdom clearly. And in these sacred encounters on the peripheries, we find more beauty than is found at any beach resort.
The bubbles we live in extend to how we see the world.
Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia 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 out of our comfort zone, our echo chamber, our bubble. This is the miracle he wants to perform in our lives to cure us of our blindness. And allow us to see as he sees.