I was in high school when the very first Star Wars movie came out. And I, probably like many of you, was blown away by the special effects at that time. In many ways, that movie was a pioneer: since then, I’ve seen Gravity, Guardians of the Universe, Interstellar, and even some of the Star trek movies… all owe a tremendous debt to George Lucas.
Do you remember in that first movie that scene when Obi-Wan-Ben-Kenobi and Darth Vader meet for thier final battle? In the end, there is that moment when Ben sees that Luke Skywalker, the future promise, is safe. And when he does, he turns his light saber off and surrenders to Vader. Or, so we think… It’s a shockingly selfless act, isn’t’ it? There’s a similar scene at the end of Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s film. I’m sure if you take a moment, you can think of other movies.
There is another story that’s like that. When they ask John the Baptist, ‘Who are you?’ he gives them one of the most simple and most profound answers ever recorded. “I am not the Christ.” In other words, it’s not about me. I need to step out of the way for someone more important. I didn’t get the job promotion. She’s not going to marry me. I didn’t win the Lotto. I’m not the smartest person in my class. I didn’t get chosen for the lead in the theatre production.
But John doesn’t seem too disappointed, does he? Just the opposite. Actually he’s a little excited about his options now. He’s not plotting how he can make a few bucks or become famous because he knows who Jesus is. Think about it: if you knew Jesus back in the day, wouldn’t you have done everything you could to get on his good side? But have you noticed that John the Baptist is not mentioned as one of the original disciples?
No, John the Baptist is the perfect messenger. He knows who he is, and who he is not. He knows his role is proclaim the One who is yet to come, whose sandal strap he is not even worthy to untie. He’s doing what God has asked him to do, his role in life. Is there any better goal to shoot for — to do what God asks you to do?
And maybe that’s our Advent inspiration for today: The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself. Are you confident enough in yourself to let go of your insecurities, your sinfulness, and make room for a life-long journey with the Christ child? Can you see what a difference your life can make if you forget who you are and live another story, our Christian story?… The one that has an answer for the desperation of our sin and our need for salvation?
On his flight to Chicago, Bishop Cupich voluntarily gave up his first-class seat so someone in coach could be pampered instead of him. Of course, he’s just like Pope Francis… who waits in line in the dining hall with everyone else, paid for his own room during the papal conclave, and gives up his seat on public transportation. No act of selfless consideration is too small for our church leaders.
Aren’t we, deep down, inspired by those simple acts? When our leaders lose themselves for the sake of another? It reminds us, again and again, to see the dignity inherent in every person we meet, especially the poor and marginalized, especially those in our home, at work, in school, especially those sitting next to you right now. To step aside and think about another person. Like the very first line of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life:
“It’s not about you.”
Wait a minute… that book sold 20 million copies, with an opening line like that? Really?
“It’s not about you.”
I bet John the Baptist loves that line. And Pope Francis. And Bishop Cupich. Let’s face it. In a very profound way, we all love that line. It tells us something about the nature of ourselves, and the nature of God.
So let’s be pioneers. Let our simple acts of selfless love continue to build the Kingdom of God. Let’s lose ourselves for Christ and our Church. Let’s follow our leaders on this one, and be blown away with joy, far greater than any movie can provide. Let’s be lifted up like the lowly, and bring glad tidings to all we meet this Advent season. And beyond.
And may that force be with you. Always.