The latest issue of Time Magazine features the 100 Most Influential People. Sorry to say, I’m not in it. But it seems, neither are you.
I don’t know any celebrities. But some among us may have brushed with fame somewhere along the way. You might know someone before they were famous. You lived next door to them. You went to school with them. You babysat them when they were kids. When I taught high school some years back, I came to a profound realization. I do not ever know who among the young lives I touch will one day be president, or pope, who will perform at Carnegie Hall, or find the cure for cancer. It made me just a bit more in awe of my own students.
This I believe is one of the reasons teachers love what they do. They get to witness the awesome wonder of young people discovering their own potential. It is much the same for parents, coaches, mentors, scout leaders, pastors, and babysitters. I would love one day to say I knew someone before they were famous. And that’s not just so I can score free admission to White House state dinners, private papal audiences, Broadway premiers, and Nobel Prize award ceremonies. Okay, it is. But it’s a distant second to knowing I helped to bring greatness to the world.
Now people are usually famous for good reasons, important reasons outside the ordinary. In recent years, some people have become famous for almost no reason at all, like for being rich, or having a famous name. I’m not talking about those. Instead, I am referring to those who stand out because of their amazing and extraordinary talents, or because they actually accomplished something to make the world a better place, people whose trademark is extraordinary creativity, amazing originality, and remarkable ingenuity. Many of them are athletes, scientists, artists, and entertainers. But every once in a while they are innovative thinkers, visionary reformers, and spiritual pioneers. By giving us the best of themselves, they bring out the best in the rest of us.
Today Jesus tells us that we must stand out as his disciples in the world. We may not gain fame or fortune by it. We may even be misunderstood and mistreated. But we proclaim our vital connection to him by our love for one another. It is our trademark as his disciples. Our love for one another is at the very heart of our mission of proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God, just as God’s love was at the heart of Jesus’ own life and mission.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that all who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus truly did not suffer and die because of our sins. He suffered and died because of God’s great love for us. In turn, God’s love motivates our living, not our own love, but the love of God.
Today we welcome our young people to the Eucharist for the first time, a truly remarkable sign of Jesus’ love for us. By embracing his cross, he showed he was willing to give up everything that we might come to peace with God.
And by giving us himself as food, he shows his desire to be among us always, to be one with us, forever. Our best response in gratitude is love, our love for God above all, and our love for our neighbor, the same people for whom Jesus gave his life, even the undeserving and ungrateful. It is his trademark. It should be ours, too. If we are ever famous, it should be because of our love for one another.
And if you aren’t famous yet, I would love to say I knew you all before you were famous.
Rolo B Castillo © 2016