I was whispered to this link where one of the bishops attending the Mundelein retreat earlier this year reflected on a timely question offered by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa:
Is Jesus for us a person, or just a personality, a celebrity, a cult figure?
People today gravitate to celebrities. The experience of social media, corporate advertising there and in traditional media, plus the vacuum of leadership in western culture all contribute to a state in which people grasp for any head above the crowd, any voice shouting over the din.
Personalities include people like Julius Caesar, Napoleon, George Washington, or any number of people who have a following today. A personality is someone whose name is on everyone’s tongue, someone you can freely write about or talk about, but not someone you can talk to or speak with. By way of contrast, a person is someone you can talk with and speak with.
The key point, according to Fr Cantalamessa via Bishop Mark O’Connell, is that some believers have yet to pierce the glow of cult to enter more deeply into the experience of a relationship:
Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Christians, Jesus is a personality and not a person. He is part of a set of dogmas, doctrines or heresies. He is the one whose memory we celebrate in liturgy, proclaiming the Eucharist as his real presence, but as long as we remain on the “objective” level, without Jesus becoming “subjective”, that is, without developing a personal relationship between ourselves and Himself, He remains external to us, outside of ourselves, something that touches our minds, but doesn’t enter into and warm our hearts. And despite everything, there He remains, a remnant of the past, because we instinctively place twenty centuries between ourselves and Him.
Many pastoral leaders also know that it is wise to avoid becoming the object of celebrity in whatever sphere they inhabit: a parish ministry, the rectory, the cathedral, the lecture circuit. It is all too easy for talented people to drift above the person-to-person contact that builds the Reign of God. We move into a rarefied atmosphere of objectivity.
To a degree, this is inevitable for musicians, actors, athletes, and politicians. Fangirls and fanboys encourage it. But in the realm of the Gospel, it is not ministry. It is distance, a gulf between us and individual persons, and a gulf from the mission of Jesus. Maybe it fits Jesus as celebrity. But not Jesus as the Son of God who desires most of all our friendship.