Back a few years ago, I was able to visit the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. One day I was visiting, and after leaving through the doorway, I passed by a very small crowd that had gathered. I looked closer and at the center was a well-dressed, well-groomed young man singing a song, with all the drama of a pop star. Sure enough, after a few seconds, that very small crowd grew into a large crowd, with people taking photos and videos. I thought, he must be famous. Sure enough, he was a popular singer in Mexico, and he was singing a song about Mary.
While he was singing and everyone was caught up in the moment, I noticed that there was a homeless man lying on the ground at the entrance to the basilica no more than 20 feet away. Now, the reason I noticed him and was able to approach him, was because I was not caught up in all the hoopla around the rock star. Do you know that not a single person noticed the homeless man. Everyone is caught up in the popular guy and his song about Mary, and they don’t notice Jesus not 20 feet away. They all missed out. It’s satisfying to serve. We really encounter God when we serve. It’s satisfying to give of oneself and lend a hand to a person who could use it. And God blesses you on top of that; you get a hand when you need it. But they missed out on one of the great joys of human life. They were caught up in the hoopla. “‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’” (Mt 25:44-45)
The other day in the parish here, there was a party with some simple food and drink. There was a table where the priest was sitting at the head of the table, but the table could only accommodate about 1/3 of the people. So, rather than sit at the table next to the priest, I went out and got some seats for the people who didn’t have seats. And then, when people wanted me to sit with the priest and eat, I decided I’d serve the people who can’t sit at the table. So I took food and drinks to all of the guests around the periphery. When it was all said and done, I missed out on the photo ops, but I got to greet everyone on the margins eye to eye, to chat with people I hadn’t been able to meet before, to listen to what people had to say. I got to plant seeds. I also saved a few pounds by being away from the food overload and getting a little exercise. And I was happy. That’s what happens when you’re not caught up in rock star hoopla. You’re free to be yourself. You’re free to give yourself, to serve others, to meet people and lift them up. To plant seeds. You’re free to be happy.
When the people went to make Jesus king, He disappeared. He wanted nothing of it. Jesus wasn’t one of the priests, one of the people who got the head of the table, got the big plate of food and the royal treatment from the people in public. He chose not to be in the rock star hoopla. He was out with the people who were on the margins, who didn’t have a seat at the popularity table. Being Himself, giving Himself, serving them. Meeting people and lifting them up. Planting seeds. Jesus didn’t miss out on the joy of serving. He didn’t miss out on being with His Father. And we all know what happened when He needed God to raise Him up. He never got caught up in the hoopla.
There are attention getters – rock stars – in all the places of our life. In our families, in the church, at work, school, on facebook (ya think?), in the gym, wherever. Here’s a secret: don’t get caught up in the hoopla. Don’t look for a seat at the popularity table, with the rock star and their entourage. Get out to the periphery where you can be yourself. Where you can give yourself, and serve, and meet people eye-to-eye, and lift them up. That’s where you’ll be with God, planting seeds that last. That’s where you’ll be happy. And one day, when you need to be lifted up, God will bless you.
Don’t miss out.
Don’t get caught up in the hoopla.
“For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk 22:27)