I happened to click on a video this morning that showed a video clip of a well-known preacher who has become quite popular. His services are overflowing with attendance, his books have topped the New York Times Books Best Sellers List. He is a charismatic man, preaching a message of hope.
On the surface, this seems fine and for many people, it is just what the doctor ordered. But the more I thought about it, I realized that once again, this is a difference between Catholicism and the rest of the Christian churches. We don't have megastars.
What I mean is that within Catholicism, there aren't these towering personalities that eclipse everything and everyone around them. Some will say, "Oh, yes you do. You have the Pope!" The Pope, to me, does not fit what I call a "megastar." A megastar is someone who for various reasons, has risen to the forefront of a ministry. They've written books, spoken to thousands, and maybe have a TV or radio show. The focus is on their personality and their teaching.
The Pope is well known, to be sure. His speeches are televised across the world and his books are eagerly awaited by faithful Catholics everywhere. However, the focus is on the Catholic church. He has a very specific and strategic role within the government of the church and that must take precedence over everything else.
Never have I felt that a Pope was grandstanding. Instead, I have been touched by the humility I have seen in Pope Benedict XVI. There is a somber respect I also sense as he walks out his immense responsibility for leading the worldwide Catholic church.
Here's another thing I've noticed: Megastars usually don't talk about sin. They'll talk about God's love, or God's desire to see us healthy and wealthy; but rarely does a megastar become a megastar by talking primarily about sin and suffering. I suspect it's because they realize they wouldn't have much of an audience. I'm not denying the importance of sharing with the world God's love but I do have reservations about sharing only one side of it. God's love is shown to us through His mercy but it is also shown through His judgement of sin. We could never have rejoiced in the resurrection if we had not first admitted we were sinners in need of saving. When we realize the depths of our sin, we are able to celebrate even more fully God's great love for us and the sacrifice of His Precious Son, Jesus Christ.
Here's another thing about megastars: There are Catholic megastars but the Mass levels the playing field. There are Catholic politicians, authors, radio show hosts, actors and actresses, athletes, and musicians. There are many well-known Catholics but yet when they attend Mass, the ultimate sacrifice of Christ is preeminent. The Eucharist is predominant and takes a back seat to no one.
But within a non-Catholic church, if, say, a famous Christian is present, they're usually invited to the pulpit to speak. Why is this a concern for me? Because the focus of the service is transferred to a personality which to me doesn't seem to fulfill the purpose of a church service. I believe that when Jesus Christ instituted the Eucharist as a sacrifice, He gave His Church a wonderfully indescribable gift. One of the aspects of this gift is that it centers us on Jesus Christ. He is the One.
I used to get weary from the constant adoration many had for the "megastar of the month." Some people would elevate these people to a level I felt was idolatrous. I'm finding that as I attend Mass, I'm being reminded again of where my focus should be - not on charismatic personalities or famous individuals if they happen to be visiting, but upon what my Lord and Savior has done for me, and for which I am eternally indebted to Him.