an excerpt from SPIRIT ONLINE for March 16, 2014
Young people are prime targets for the advertising and entertainment businesses. No big surprise. Advertising and entertainment pretend to name their dreams and deal with their problems, to care about their happiness and images, but for only one reason—selling products.
Our desires are infinite. We will always want more. We are made to seek God and follow stars. What happens if advertisers can train our desires for God into desire for more things?
Advertisers see teens both as consumers with money today and as tomorrow’s householders. Specialists keep up with teen trends and interests. They dream up the right looks, the right stuff, so they can cleverly convince us (or teach us through commercials) what we will need to live their way. They do this to make money. They don’t care if their stuff makes anybody a better person or the world a more whole community.
Why care what advertising tells us? Because somebody is choosing for us who we will become. Each of us faces the same daily struggle. Will we let other voices control our choices, our freedom? Or will we choose and shape our own ideas of who we want to be? What communities will help shape us? What about the gospel? What influence will Jesus have on who we become?
On the mountain of transfiguration three friends glimpse Jesus’ true self. We take a risk when we share our true selves with the world. Our hopes, dreams, values, and everything that makes us unique are gifts that only we can share with the world. “We Remain” reminds us that these things, which make up our true identity, are most important.
Key Lines: Burn me with fire / Drown me with rain / I’m gonna wake up / Screaming your name / Yes I’m a sinner / Yes I’m a saint / Whatever happens here / Whatever happens here / We remain
Questions: What values do you hold that you think you will hold throughout your life? When is it difficult to maintain your values? Who shares your values? How do they help you stay true to what matters to you? What are qualities you have that you would like others to see? What risks do you take when you share your true self with others?
When Jesus encounters the devil in the desert, he must choose either to give into people’s popular ideas of the messiah, which the devil represents, or to do what he knows is right from the scriptures. While rarely as dramatic as what Jesus faced, we face difficult choices every day. “Follow My Feet” is a song about the challenges of following our consciences and doing what is right.
Key Lines: And the high road’s steady and steep / And the low road’s easy and deep / Guess I’ll follow, follow, follow my feet / Guess I’ll follow, follow, follow my feet
Questions: What tempts you by seeming to be easier than doing what is right? Who do you trust to be a good example for your life? How do you describe what conscience is? When is it easy or hard to listen to your conscience? What challenges do you face this Lent? How does the tradition of “giving something up” for Lent help you face temptations?
In Sunday’s gospel Jesus insists that worrying about material wealth won’t bring security and safety. He holds up the birds of the air and lilies of the field as examples of God’s care that we can trust. Our culture reinforces that idea that buying things and having more than those around us will make us happy, but as followers of Jesus, we know true joy is our relationships. The song “Price Tag” is a reminder of the distractions of money and glamour, and where we find true happiness.
Key Lines: Why is everybody so obsessed? / Money can’t buy us happiness / Can we all slow down and enjoy right now? / Guarantee we’ll be feeling alright
Questions: What material things distract you from what is important? When does money cause you worry or stress? What do you think Jesus would tell you about that? What responsibility do you think we have to those who are poor or in need in other ways? How can the way we use our resources, such as money, be an expression of what we believe?
This week’s issue of SPIRIT ONLINE features an excerpt from “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah.
As a child soldier Ishmael Beah learned firsthand that revenge spreads and multiplies without limits or fairness. He joined the army rather than starve after his family was killed. Older soldiers told him the army gave him a way to avenge the killings of his family. At the United Nations Ishmael testifies to what he has lived: revenge never ends, killing leads to more killing.
Here he further discusses his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone:
Ishmael Beah has just released a second book – a novel called “Radiance of Tomorrow.” It is set in post-war Sierra Leone.
Sunday’s gospel is challenging. Jesus calls his followers to forgive those who harm us. Not only are we called to forgive, we are called to show compassion as children of God. “Rough Water” is a song about forgiveness but even more about the promise of love through difficult times.
Key Lines: We been through rough water anytime it was tougher / But the fact I came back to remind you I love ya / And if that’s not enough, well I can one up ya / I pinky promise touch thumbs I’ll never make you suffer
Questions: Why do we cause harm to others? What does it mean to truly forgive? What is better about showing or not showing forgiveness to those who hurt you? Why do you think Jesus calls us to forgive those who hurt us?