The commercial at the bottom of this post is not in English, but its message is clear enough. The basic scenario is that a young woman is horrified by the appearance of a mere pimple on her face and decides to stay parked in front of the television rather than venturing out in public.
She switches from channel to channel, but no matter which she chooses, she sees impossible beauty standards, unrealistic romance, and the like. All of this fuels her despair at not being “fit for prime time” due to her pimple.
Too much television and other imagery can do that, playing with your mind. And it isn’t just body image and beauty standards that incite our vanity, pride, and envy; it’s a whole range of other things, too. Greed and lust are often encouraged without showing us their true cost. Sloth is incited by making it appear that little is really required of us to obtain the blessings of life. Happiness can be had for a mere $19.95 (plus shipping and handling) or by drinking the right brand of beer. Our anger is roused by news programs that focus only on extremes and on the most provocative and divisive of issues.
The point is that we are being played; this young woman presents the perfect picture of that.
Watch as little television as possible and remember that when you do watch, you’re a sitting duck, being played by masters of image and marketing.
We tend to divide humanity into groups rather simplistically. I am called Caucasian or just “white,” yet I am not aware of any of my ancestors coming from the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas. There’s more to me than what the Caucasian label says.
Here is an interesting commercial, which shows some of the descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Generally speaking, the political correctness of today refers to the signers as “a bunch of old, dead, white men.” Their descendants, however, portray a different picture. The cynics will say that the signers “just had sex with their slaves,” but whatever their sins, do their descendants thereby lose dignity? Does the America they begot, even if in sin, lose its worth? What if most of these categories are simplistic and inaccurate?
And here’s a video that reveals not just our simplicity, but our ignorance.
There’s something about the commercial below that reminds me of this Scripture passage:
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and he is gone,
and his place knows him no more.
but the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:15-19).
In this video we watch a young boy age before our very eyes and then vanish.
I’m not crazy about the Santa figure; in my opinion, something more edifying would have been better, but at his best, Santa means Holy One and as such can represent God. Although the “places” of the man forget him, the Santa figure does not. As the commercial ends you might see the man’s grandchildren (his “children’s children”) in the background.
The world has a cruel indifference to us, but God remembers us as the apple of His eye.
Usually we don’t like to know the end of the story. When someone blurts out the ending it’s called a “spoiler.” What fun is it to read a whodunit when you already know who done it?
When it comes to the faith, though, not only should we know the end of the story, but we must never forget it and must base our very lives upon it. As we look about the world, it is easy to get discouraged and think that evil is winning. Yet Scripture plainly states that Satan’s plans are going nowhere, that Jesus has already won the victory. Mysteriously, the Lord allows Satan a little time to sift through the ruins of his former kingdom. Do not be deceived—Satan has lost and so have all who are allied with him.
Some lines from Psalms come to mind:
Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more;look for them and they will not be there.But the poor will inherit the earth,will delight in great prosperity.But my Lord laughs at the wicked,because he sees that their day is coming.Wait eagerly for the LORD,and keep his way;He will raise you up to inherit the earth;you will see when the wicked are cut off.I have seen a ruthless scoundrel,spreading out like a green cedar.When I passed by again, he was gone;though I searched, he could not be found.mark the upright;Because there is a future for a man of peace.Sinners will be destroyed together;the future of the wicked will be cut off (Psalm 37).
Spoiler alert! Yes, dear brethren, I checked. I went to the end of the story and, sure enough, Jesus wins! There it is, right at the end of the Bible. This is a spoiler you need to know, because you have to choose which team you’ll be on and it’s nice to know ahead of time whose team has already won. It’s like going to today’s horserace armed with tomorrow’s newspaper. You’d be a fool to bet on any horse other than the winning one. Well, you have tomorrow’s paper, and here’s what it says:
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. They invaded the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire (Rev 20:7–15).
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” He said to me, “They are accomplished. I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:1–8).
And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true, and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits, sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.” “Behold, I am coming soon.” Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book. … The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all (Rev 22:6–7; 20-21).
Keep this in mind; keep it always on your mind. The result of this victory is obtained in the paradox of the cross. Jesus destroyed death by dying and tells us that to save our life we must lose it to this world. Whatever your struggles and setbacks, do not be dismayed. Love and humility have already overcome hatred and pride. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Pride cannot drive out pride; only humility can do that. The Lord allows opportunities for the light of truth to shine in the error of darkness, for love to endure in the face of hatred, and for humility to put pride to shame.
Until the last day when the trumpet shall sound, the drama carries on. But see what the end shall be. You already know the end of the story; make sure that you serve in the Lord’s army and wield the weapons of light, love, and humility.
I know this video is going to seem strange after such a serious reflection, but what could be more humble than a pig “spoiling” the movie for the entering patrons? If you listen to his advice, though, he’s basically saying what I just did: “Don’t waste your time on losers. Don’t waste your time going down a path of wrong ideas or theories. Don’t get all worked up about characters and things that don’t matter—here’s what’s really going on in the movie.”
It’s not bad advice for life, either. If you know the end of the story, there’s a lot you can disregard along the way. You’ll know where to set your focus. Keep your eyes on Jesus and the truth of His Gospel.
The commercial below reminds us that the products we use don’t just come out of nowhere. Good goes around and around. The Cheerios in the cereal box started out as seeds in the ground, but the commercial stops well short of showing everyone we should thank for the final product.
• Before sowing the seed, the ground has to be tilled and prepared.
o Thank you to the farmers as well as those who invented, designed, and build the plows.
o Thanks to the steel workers and miners, who contribute the raw materials to build the machines that till.
o Thanks to the petroleum and refinery workers who supply the fuel for the machines to till the earth.
• Once the seed is planted, water, fertilizer, and pesticides need to be supplied in order to ensure a rich harvest.
o Thanks again to the farmers, who rise early in the morning in all kinds of weather to do this work.
o Thanks to those who invented and supply the fertilizer and pesticides.
• Once the crops are ready, they must be harvested and sent to the mill.
o Thanks to those who do the hard work of harvesting.
o Thanks to the truckers and rail workers, who are responsible for conveying the material to the mills.
o Thanks to those who designed, built, and maintain the roads, rails, trucks, and rail cars.
• Once at the mill, the raw material must be processed.
o Thanks to all who work in the mills.
o Thanks to those who invented the machines and processes.
o Thanks to those who supply the steel and the parts for the machines.
o Thanks to those who repair and maintain the machinery.
• Once out of the mill, it’s over more roads and rails to the warehouses and then finally the stores.
o Thanks to all who built the warehouses and stores.
o Thanks to those who carefully monitor inventory so that we consumers are seldom faced with empty shelves.
o Thanks to those who risked their money to build the warehouses and stores.
o Thanks to the bankers, investors, and the people whose deposited money serves to make cash available for the costs for such operations.
o Thanks to the store employees, who stock the shelves and ensure that the products we need are at hand.
This is only a brief list, but never forget that a huge number of people stand behind every box of cereal, behind every other product you buy. Do you see how interconnected we are?
Are you grateful to God, who sustains all of this and from whom every good and perfect gift comes? Each of us should be!
The commercial below reminds us of an important insight for evangelization. It features a barber shop where business is slow. Things pick up quickly, however, when they begin to post photos of recent customers sporting their new haircuts. The pictures showcase the good results of a haircut and bring “getting a haircut” from the world of abstraction, ideas, and possibilities, into the world of visual reality. In effect, they’re saying, “Here is what happens when you come to our shop!”
For us who would evangelize, it is not enough to present teachings and ideas. We must provide a real picture of salvation in Christ to others. Even if through our words we can get people to acknowledge that the Lord has saved them and can transform them, they might still respond, “Well that sounds good, but how do I know it’s true?” And that is when we have to be able to say, “Just look at me!”
In other words, having an evangelization committee, displaying a rack of pamphlets, or offering a class is not enough. We have to be witnesses of what the Lord has done for us and showcase what He can still do for others. We must be able to say, “Picture this!”
After God created the heavens and the earth, He rested on the seventh day. His rest was not one of exhaustion but of enjoyment. He commanded us to rest as well, a rest of leisure or enjoyment, not necessarily one of sleep. We work to live, but sadly many often live to work. This is a particular problem in our time due to the 24×7 availability made possible by modern technology. In addition, we are out of rhythm with our nature as a result of artificial light and the noise and distraction of modern diversions.
This cycle is not easily broken, and even when we finally do sleep, it is often fitful rather than deep and restful. In the commercial below, a woman tosses and turns; work his on her mind. A funny moment occurs when she dreams that her boss expects her to respond to his email before she wakes up. We all know that feeling!
At least try to make some progress in recapturing silence and leisure. Consider putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode so that only people you designate can get through to you after a certain time of day. Try turning off that sound that occurs every time you get an email or a text.
Let your evenings be more relaxed. If you don’t you’ll probably have the fitful sleep of the woman in the commercial. The suggested solution for her is to use drugs to bring on sleep.
God says that we should rest and He means more than merely sleeping.
There is a line from Scripture that says, Woe to the solitary man. If he falls he has no one to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
Scripture also says, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb 10:24-25). The teaching is clear: we must come together each week for Mass and learn to live in deep communion with one another. We are not meant to make this journey alone. We need encouragement and exhortation, food for the journey, and companionship and protection.
In the days of Jesus, it was almost unthinkable for a person to make a lengthy journey alone. Once a person left the relative safety of the town, the journey got dangerous. There were robbers lying in wait along the roads just looking for vulnerable targets. For this reason, people almost always made journeys in groups.
This is a good image for the spiritual journey we all must make. Alone, we are easy targets. We are vulnerable and without help when spiritual demons attack.
Yet another insight says, “Feuding brothers reconcile when there is a maniac at the door.”
Somehow I thought of all this when I saw these two videos. They are clever and make the point of partner or perish, love or lose, hang together or hang separately. Yes, woe to the solitary man. How necessary the protection of the flock! How necessary it is to stay together!