July 27, 2008

I've been named Pastor of Holy Name of Jesus parish in Semmes, AL, a semi-rural community on the edge of Mobile. It has about 400 families & I start Sat., Aug. 23.


When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. – Mt. 13: 46

Celebrities – people famous for being famous, as Daniel Boorstin put it – become projections of our aspirations & needs. We filter out the bad parts & focus only on the glamour, the grandiose lifestyles, the power, the kindly & tender parts of their lives. Celebrities have it all, or so we like to believe.

Video star wannabes seek the fame & adulation & popularity that their idols seemingly possess. We follow their every move, buy every record, dress like they dress, talk like they talk, wait for hours, sometimes days, to catch a glimpse of them. Why? Because our own lives seem so ordinary, so gray in comparison; their lives seem to be in technicolor. Our problems appear so pressing & confining; they seem so free. We are overlooked, & they are looked for everywhere.

Celebrities are a modern media invention. In the past, there were quiet heroes & heroines like the saints, who were noted for charity, kind & heroic deeds, miracles of grace & valor. They believed in virtues like dying for the faith, embracing the leper, feeding the hungry & teaching the poor. But they’ve given way to the likes of Madonna & Tom Cruise. Relics have given way to items sold at auction, like a pearl necklace that belonged to Jackie Onassis; shrines have given way to Graceland . Our ideals have changed.

External possessions & the image they create are how we judge success nowadays; not by the inner qualities of people. Personality has triumphed over character.

In today’s Gospel, let’s look at the field through the eyes of our Lord. Beneath the grime & dirt there lies a treasure: us. So He goes & sells all he has (His divinity) & purchases this treasure at the price of His blood. Therein lies our true celebrityhood. As we wait in line to catch sight of our idols, we must not forget the foundation of our own worth. We are made in the image & likeness of God, not some advertising agency’s notion of what we are. We are deeply loved by God who sees in us a treasure which He ardently desires & for which He has literally given everything, even His life, to possess.

Each of us is a child of God, gifted by the Spirit, & given a task to do in this life that will make us celebrities forever. That task is to feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, care for the sick, be honest & tell the truth. This is the stuff of true celebrity – & it will last for more than 15 minutes.

Idolizing celebrities from afar is OK so long as we don’t overlook our own celebrity. To know that we are beloved of God & armed with a mission in life – that is reality, not shadow; that is substance, not image; that is Gospel, not hype.

Media celebrities only have a fleeting image; deep down where it really counts, the only true celebrity is the baptized. Who made us so? Who tells us so? Who has such great expectations of us & is our greatest fan? Jesus! AMEN!