18 Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 4, 2019
For almost half a century, people speculated about the identity of the person whose over-the-top vanity was described in a song. Finally, in an autobiography, the singer-songwriter acknowledged who the individual is. I wonder how many people below the age of 50 have ever heard the song. I wonder as well how many younger people even recognize the name of the long anonymous celebrity. Even those old enough to remember (and still have the ability to remember) would probably be shocked by a current picture of this once paragon of vanity.
Exceptionally good looks might lead to wealth and fame, but age is not kind to our bodies. And while wealth might survive a full head of hair and pearly white teeth, there comes a point where there are fewer and fewer things (other than health care) that money can buy which bring true pleasure.
The funny thing is this: vanity has a very long shelf life. Could it be that when the person who, according to the song, was always seen at the “right places, with the right people, and at the right time, wearing the right fashion” hears the song, arrogance overpowers arthritis? After all of these years, is the person still vain?
But vanity is not limited to the rich and famous. In truth, “the song” describes all of us to one degree or another. And the more we fall victim to vanity, the less lasting and authentic peace we enjoy.
During his general audience on June 4, 2014, Pope Francis spoke about walking with true piety. He stressed that this Gift of the Holy Spirit…PIETY…is not to be confused with “pietism,” which can actually be fueled by vanity.
Rather, according to the Holy Father: The gift of piety means to be truly capable of rejoicing with those who rejoice, of weeping with those who weep, of being close to those who are lonely or in anguish, of correcting those in error, of consoling the afflicted, of welcoming and helping those in need. The gift of piety is closely tied to gentleness. The gift of piety, which the Holy Spirit gives, makes us gentle, makes us calm, patient, at peace with God, at the service of others with gentleness. It is a relationship lived with the heart…not the mirror, or the portfolio. The focus of the authentically pious is on God and others, not on self and self-worth and wealth. It would seem then that the cure to vanity is piety.
So if you happen to know the song, sing along…You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you…don’t you…don’t you?
Actually…it is! The song and the Scripture passages ARE ABOUT YOU…and me…and serve as a stark reminder to all of us to strive to be less vain and more pious…so that we can live in peace.