In the past few weeks, a new type of advertising has appeared on television. For lack of a better term, I call this new advertising “Covid commercials.” In addition to the many Public Service Announcements encouraging people to avoid infection, there are now Covid19-themed commercials about consumer products. The companies that manufacture goods and provide services are now promoting themselves as answers to everyone’s worries and frustrations about the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the advertisements are predictably pedantic, a few are interesting, but one is brilliant.
One of the snack food manufacturers has a commercial that features text projected against a dark background; the text is followed by a few graphics. The commercial’s written message begins, “Things are hard right now. The world doesn’t need brands to tell us how to think or feel. The world needs brands to take action.” The messages continue with a description of the thousands of new jobs being created by the snack food company, the millions of dollars the company is donating to provide Covid19 testing, and the millions more in meals being provided to children in need. The commercial concludes by stating that the snack food company’s response to the pandemic is not about making money, “It’s about people.”
This very appealing advertisement might be nothing more than a very clever marketing scheme, but it remains very appealing.
Who wouldn’t love to have Church leaders who don’t act as if ordained ministry is about self-image and career advancement but as if “It’s about people”? Who wouldn’t love to have political leaders who don’t act as if politics is about popularity and reelection but as if “It’s about people”? Who wouldn’t love to have business leaders who didn’t live as if the economy is about market share and corporate earnings but as if “It’s about people”? Who wouldn’t love to be a member of a social group or a family where “It’s about people”?
The Scriptures describe a leader who can say truthfully, “It’s about people.” Today’s second reading describes Jesus as “the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Pt. 2:25) That’s an appealing image, isn’t it? The First Letter of Peter says that Jesus is the shepherd and guardian who suffered for our sakes. (1 Pt. 2:21) He gave us an example of innocence and sinlessness. (1 Pt. 2:22) Furthermore, he trusted unwaveringly in God’s just judgment. (1 Pt. 2:23)
Jesus gave clear witness that he did not live for the sake of popularity, personal gain, public admiration, market share, or brand identification. Jesus lived only to accomplish God’s will to save human nature from sin. It would be neither an oversimplification nor an understatement to say that God’s love is entirely about people.
This mystery of God’s love for human nature is something that must be contemplated and appropriated throughout one’s lifetime; it isn’t a truth that sinks in all at once. Furthermore, the mystery of God’s love must be the inspiration for one’s actions throughout the length of one’s life.
Wouldn’t you love to have leaders who live as if “It’s about people”? If this thought appeals to you, then you are obliged to be that type of leader – in your home, your friendships, your church community, your work life, and in the world.
Every public health expert hopes that you are avoiding unnecessary travel, activity, and contact with others; their hope is based on the commitment that “It’s about people.” Instead of interpreting your confinement at home as a reaction to fear or as an imposition on your liberty, try to see it as being about people.
Any challenge or test, even minor inconveniences, can lead us to worry about the future, to serve our own self-interest, or to cling to created things for comfort. It’s easy to forget the central truth of human existence, namely, that God’s love is about people. Jesus is “the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Pt. 2:25) As we are recipients of God’s love, every one of us has the obligation to shepherd and guard the souls of those around us.