Living Without the Limelight

In the last episode of Season Two of Madam Secretary, Matt Mahoney, Elizabeth McCord‘s speechwriter had to give a speech for the graduates of UMass Pittsfield because she was stuck on another important mission. In this speech he said something very important and relatable with what we often see around us:

Good morning. I’d like to, uh… uh, begin by stating the obvious. I am not Elizabeth McCord. I’m her speechwriter. Believe me, uh, no one is more disappointed that the Secretary won’t be giving the address that I wrote for her.  You know, now that I know that it’ll never see the light of day, I think it’s safe to say that it was the greatest speech ever written.

I mean, honestly, uh, this is probably the first moment in my adult life that I’ve stood in the spotlight. Truth be told, it’s probably gonna be the last. Why? Because I’m one of those people who work in the dark. I know what you’re thinking. As soon as my Etsy page is discovered, uh, I’ll invent my own job title on Buzzfeed and livestream my Christopher Walken impression as I hoverboard to the Soylent dispenser in the playroom… And I don’t blame you.

In this world of relentless self-promotion, we’ve all been raised to think that the limelight is the only light worth seeking. But that isn’t the case. And if I can impart one thing today, a small, simple truth to carry with you as you walk through those gates, it’s this… Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of… quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

I think there is a lot of truth in this scripted speech. Working with many young people, I can attest to you the numerous cases of depression, anxieties, and burnt-outs because too many are trying so hard to stand out. We are living in a day and age where so many people are trying their best to get the momentary spotlight by attracting attention and “outshine” others who are around them. Nonetheless, these small moments and glimpses of glory only last for a short while because they need to find new ways to make themselves appealing, attractive, and noticed by others again (and again). This is a vicious, never-ending cycle that leaves one wanting “more” but never really happy because it is so short-lived. It causes resentment, anger, and bitterness. One becomes angry and judgmental, loathing people and themselves, because he or she is always unhappy with never-ending pursuit of more.

Contrary to what our world is pushing our young people to do, especially with the constant struggle to be recognized, the Lord Jesus Christ taught us how truly be ourselves as we are — children of God. Throughout His whole earthly life, Christ never wanted to be on the spotlight. When the people wanted to make Him a king, He escaped. He was more worried about loving and caring for people instead of being glorified by them. He was more about being a servant leader than one that dictates and directs from on high. He was more about living out His mission and empowering people to overcome their sins and worldly allurements (to live out their vocations as children of God) instead of simply trying to become the center of attention. The Lord wants our hearts in response to love instead of simply our short-lived attention, praise, and glory. He desires a genuine, personal, and intimate receiving and giving of love from us because He was never about the earthly glory and power. He desires real interaction, acknowledgement, response, giving and receiving of genuine love from the people who seek the truth and are dear to God‘s own hearts.

What was said at the Last Supper“This is my Body — This is my Blood — Given up for you!” is realized on the Cross as well at each and every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They were not simply words! Christ puts what He said into actions. He meant every word He said. He practiced them, too, even if it meant to give His life so we can life! His love is real and sealed by His own sacrificial gift of Himself to us.

Love is not real unless it hurts, because it is much more than some hedonistic or casual exchanges. It is much more than lip service, emotional, psychological, or bodily satisfaction. Love hurts because it requires so much effort to love even when it does not make any sentimental sense!

The Lord Jesus Christ chose to die for us while we were still stuck in our own arrogance and sinfulness. He chose to die for those who hated Him, those who wanted Him crucified, those who betrayed and rejected Him, and even for those who never knew Him. He died for you and me! He died for us because His love is real, not just some lip service or empty words. He did something that only the Creator who genuinely loves His creation could ever do. He did what many other man-made gods and ancient idols would not do for their subjects. He made the radical choice that only the true God who is passionately in love with His subjects could ever contemplate and willing to endure.

His love is real and it was sealed by His own sacrificial giving of His very self, even if it meant to endure the cruel punishment, pains, and sufferings imposed on the worst criminals. If we are ever powerful and omnipotent, we would just snap a finger to make things right, ask someone else to do the deed, or take care of the problem through other and lesser means. Nonetheless, He willed to bear all the pains and sufferings because His love is very real. He did not take any shortcuts! The Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said in his Good Fridays homily: “All men were born to live, but only one was born to die!” Christ‘s resolve to die for us was not dependent on whether we accept or praise Him for His actions. His resolve was based on His real, genuine love for us, a love that we oftentimes cannot understand, grasp, and will not choose at times.

His love for us was not dependent on the glory of the crowd on Palm Sunday or the hatred of the chief priests, rabbis, and bystanders on Good Friday. The only reason why Good Friday is good because Christ chose the goodness of His love for us! It is good because He chose to not take retribution on the evils given to Him, instead transformed them with real love in the giving of Himself. His sacrificial love made it good!

The Savior and Redeemer taught us that popular opinions quickly change with the time. What happened with the crowds on Palm Sunday and Good Friday could also happen with us because the herd is fickle and crowd opinions are constantly shifting. Therefore, to chase after trends, fads, and popular opinions will burn us out because it is futilely chasing after a shifting shadow that constantly on the move. Furthermore, when we chase after what we think people think of us, we are ultimately chasing after our own subconscious manifestation of unfulfilled dreams that will always remain “out there” and unfulfilled. The quickest way out to burn ourselves out is trying to be in the spotlight and living for the small moments in the limelight instead of finding a deeper recognition of our self-worth, dignity, identity, and fulfillment in loving God and being loved by Him.

The Lord Jesus Christ taught us how to love in a very personal, intimate, self-giving, and unpretentious way. He taught us how to be children of God, human beings, and Christians without having to worry about what society thinks or would like to define us. He taught us to seek what is transcendental, everlasting, real, and truthful instead of what is passing, short-lived, and make us unhappy in the long run. Our joy is real when it is grounded in Him and His love for us. Our love is true when it is a reflection and imitation of His sacrificial and self-giving love. Our identity is genuine when we are able to be content in being sons and daughters of God and able to give ourselves totally and completely without worrying about what other people think or what we should be to attract others. Who we are deep from within is a personal and loving reflection of the Son of God, beloved and able to love without worry about what other people around us would like for us to be or what we think we have to be in order to be accepted, recognized, and acknowledged by the passing crowds. Therefore, let us imitate Him and choose to live without the flashy, worldly, and vain limelight.