Jumbotrons and Joy


As self-absorbed and in love with my self-image as I am, there is one instance of hubris I have never been able to understand:

A sports-fan sits glumly in their seat, perhaps tapping their foot or bobbing their head along with the Top 40s hit navigating the crowd toward the end of a commercial break.  Their friend then shakes them violently, pointing to the magnified likeness of themselves adorning the Jumbotron.

Common wisdom indicates that the more ludicrous their dancing the longer the camera will keeps its gaze on them.  Primal instincts emerge.  More erudite fans laugh smugly…until the camera finds them.  The same joy of self-celebration overtakes them, unleashing another flurry of otherwise unwatchable 80s dance moves.

I have never been captured by one of these stealthy cameras, so I cannot say how I would react.  Nevertheless, I think it is worth asking the simple question:  Why do we love it when other people see us (dancing like fools)?

Our Gospel from Sunday gives us a clue:

You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.*

We may not all be practicing or even baptized Christians; nevertheless, we are all created in God’s image and after his likeness, encoded with the potential to bring divine joy into the lives of others.  Making a fool of yourself in front 20,000 fans at Madison Square Garden is only one way, albeit an exhilarating one, to tap into this inescapable potential.

For the baptized, the mandate to share Christian Joy takes on special importance.  In the celebrated Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis urges us:

Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone.  Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.  It is not by prosletyzing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’. **

Life does not give us Jumbotrons to advise us when we have captured the attention of others.  As such, we are called to a special sort of self-awareness.  We must ask, “Am I joyful today:  in my prayer, in my conversation, in the places people do not see?”  Such joy does not look like false happiness—hiding tears or anxieties to appear a certain way.  Rather, such a joy is characterized by our willingness to engage with and show concern for others despite the hardships we experience.  Because we are all the beloved and the sought-after-by-God, the good of others is always our good.  When we seek it with them, when share it with them, we reveal the grandeur of Christian Joy to the glory of God.

So today, and all days, let us be prayerful, let us be loving, and let us be joyful.

Our Gospel ends:

 Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.***

*Matthew 5:14-15
**Evangelii Gaudium 16
***Matthew 5:16


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