Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Oh, really?

Here's something I wrote for the Christ the King parish magazine "The Link" which came out on Sunday...
As I write, it’s two days into the final of “Masterchef” on the telly. Andrew, Shelina and Tom are fighting it out to win the culinary crown. Judges John Torrode and Greg Wallace put them through their kitchen paces, which this year included a trip to Thailand. “Cooking”, they tell us, “doesn’t get any harder than this.” The editing is fast and modern, and the crowning glory is the commentary of the “Narrator”, India Fisher. Her husky and luscious tones seem to elevate this cooking competition into the stratosphere of spirituality, where you can imagine her narrating the Last Judgement itself. “And now, Fr Matthew faces his greatest challenge ever...”
Reality TV has swept all before it over recent years from “Big Brother” onwards. Most of the programmes I have never seen, but I will own up to, um, one or two early series of “BB”, some episodes of “I’m a Celebrity”, and, especially for Saturday evening flopping, “X Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent”, though both of those two have gone down the plughole I think. “The Apprentice” is still not to be missed and back soon, and I’ll be trying to catch that... and there’s “Masterchef”.
What is it with reality TV? Certainly we like to see people squirm, however manipulated they and we are by producers and editors. We scoff at contestants’ mistakes and foolishness, and maybe assume that we could do better. In one way, it is reality, but in another way it’s not – its bubble-wrapped, marketed and well-aimed at us. Andrew, Shelina and Tom rise up from being obvious amateurs to semi-stars - at least for a few weeks. We don’t always like our reality too real, do we? We like some distance between us and it, so that we can feel comfortable, or disengage, as and when we feel like.
So, welcome to Holy Week and Easter, when God-made-man takes on hatred, evil, suffering and death with sacrifice, commitment, forgiveness and love – and wins.  In the Holy week services this and much more is presented and celebrated with us, for us and by us. And just in case we try to put that little bit of distance between ourselves and these deepest parts of reality, welcome to Holy Week - with its dirty feet washed, its garden of tears, nails of pain and empty tomb. And we will partake of it with palm leaves in our hands, bread-become-body in our stomachs, its rough wood on our lips, and waxy candles lit from blazing fires and held tight.  Sight, touch, taste, sound and even smell all tell us. This really is reality, and you cannot escape from it. It did, and does, all really happen, we are all really here and we are all really saved.
A happy and really good Easter!
Fr Matthew

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