In the past a celebrity was a person who was famous for some achievement or good fortune; but more recently a celebrity is a person who is famous just for being famous. You have to try and see them because millions of others have seen them. Achievement seems to matter less than the sheer fact of being seen and recognised. It is pretty harmless as long as it is only about dressing up and cutting a shape. But a daring crime will do it just as effectively as a lifetime of effort, and much more quickly. Some criminals are really like the naughty child who wants attention at any cost and by any means (which doesn’t make it easier for you when you become their victim).

It has a strange contradiction in it (in the case of the naughty child too): he - or she - is being anti-social in an attempt to be part of society: to be noticed and taken account of. What a contradiction we are! How complicated our relationships! How ambiguous our motives! When Jesus comes near us he looks as if he's putting everything back to front and upside down. But let's admit: it could be the other way around!

The gospel stories are  full of paradox - seeming contradiction. Jesus loves people beyond measure, so he challenges them and becomes angry when they let themselves down. He wants to be one among them, so he goes into the mountains to pray.  He wants to be closer to them even than their very mothers, and for the sake of it he does not flinch from execution, the ultimate form of exclusion.  He is a paradox to us, as the fame-seeking criminal is.  They are at opposite sides and we in the middle.  At least I am!  How about you?  I would find it troublesome to be anywhere else!  For a life of crime I would need better nerves than I have - and for a life of love, more heart. Yes, here in the middle, there's a still place! No strong lights or bright colours, no great passions, no need even to be wide awake…. It is quiet and peaceful. It is not for the adventurous.

Like the criminal, Jesus is wide awake.  Like the criminal he is deeply conscious of other human beings. Like the criminal he disturbs our peace. It is no wonder that he was taken for one.
He came to his home town and began to tell them home truths.  What a dangerous thing to do! The first impression was good, but he was not looking for approval, as most of us are in one way or another.  Instead he showed them how narrow their hearts were, how firmly closed were their minds, how low their horizon.  "They were enraged," and they tried to throw him over that small horizon, the low cliff on which their village was built.  He escaped because no small place could contain him: he had a vision larger than theirs, a heart deeper and stronger, a love for them so uncorrupted that they could not comprehend it.
So, how would you like to be a celebrity?  Would you like to be on everyone's mind, a familiar face, a household name?  If so, you will have to stand up - which will make you different from all the people sitting down.  You will be exposed to the view of all, which most people are not. Your very attempts to be with us will set you apart.

Or will you care nothing for your name or fame, or looking good, or being interesting or important or famous?  Will you care so much about us that you will risk alienating us and having us throw you over a cliff?  And will you care so little about yourself that you will lay down your life for us?  And will you be buried in someone else's grave?
If so, like him, you will be closer to us than we are to ourselves.

Donagh O'Shea

These are brief articles, one per month,
on a wide variety of topics concerning the living of the Christian life.