By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Lesson from the Super Bowl

I've noticed in recent years something rather peculiar about this football game. The great hype surrounding the match is seemingly equalled, perhaps even surpassed, by enthusiasm for the television commercials. This is very interesting. It is symptomatic of something prevalent in our society. The main event is the game; the commercials are incidental. Yet increasingly they are attracting attention away from the game, and they become the focus afterwards of water cooler conversation, they are what go viral on YouTube and social network platforms long after the game has ended. Consequently, corporations spend untold millions on their production and broadcast. Furthermore, it is all unreal, fabricated to attract attention and to influence desires.

We witness in this phenomenon a diversion of attention away from the real and toward the imaginary, a preference for illusion over substance, and a massive investment in what is fleeting. This is emblematic of the tragic struggle that besets humanity in every age. The main event is Jesus Christ; what is real is life in him. Yet we are continually seduced away from him by what is illusory, by what is passing, by what ultimately does not matter at all.

The Gospel passage for Sunday's Feast of the Presentation make very clear why Jesus and the following of him is all that matters. St. Luke recalls Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Jewish law, coming to the Temple with their firstborn son to present and consecrate him to God. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the prophet Simeon recognizes that this child is the long-awaited Messiah, the agent of salvation and light of revelation to the world. The prophetess Anna likewise sees that this child will bring about the "redemption of Jerusalem".

This is why Jesus Christ is the main event of all history. In him, God's plan of salvation, long foretold by the prophets, has come to fulfillment! Our hope for eternal life, therefore, is realized only through life lived in communion with him. Yet we continually find our attention being diverted away from the reality and beauty of life in Christ by the illusory distractions that beset us: lustful imagery in practically every media platform, luxury items whose possession promises happiness, the cult of personality and image fashioned and re-made to accord with the whims of popularity, the prestige and admiration accorded to achievement, and so on. This is all unreal, an illusory sideshow to the main event. Yet we are drawn to this fantasy, and invest untold amounts of time, energy and money in its pursuit.

Here we appreciate anew the necessity of consecrated life. Presentation Sunday is also the World Day of Consecrated Life, on which we recognize that the witness of women and men in religious life keeps us properly focused. By the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, they freely and consciously invest everything, the entirety of their lives, in the main event, in the following of Jesus Christ to the fullness of life. The world needs this witness. We all need to be reminded by their example of what matters, so that we do not waste ourselves on what doesn't.