Aaron Judge and a Lesson About Celebrity

There is nothing wrong with admiring celebrities for their gifts, talents and wisdom, but we must exercise that admiration with a substantial amount of discernment.

Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge (photo: Arturo Pardavila/CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons)

Through my father-in-law, who is connected with the New York Yankees, I had the privilege of going onto the field with my son and my father before a recent Yankees game. We also got to go down into the dugout and chat with Aaron Judge for a few minutes. Despite his massive size, which made a relatively athletic person like myself feel like a shrimp, he was very kind and humble. My father-in-law asked him to impart a few life lessons to my son, which were well-received. At the end of our time together, he allowed us to take a picture with him.

I reflected later that when it comes time for celebrity athletes to get married, they will have no problem with the picture thing. “Take one with this person, and now everyone together, and now just with the kid, and now just by yourself…” It will be like just another day at the ballpark.

But then it occurred to me that when we idolize a celebrity, the marriage analogy is not too far off. We unite ourselves with whatever, or whomever, we worship. In fact, the adultery of idolatry is a prominent theme in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Worship is a kind of marriage — it creates a kind of unity by submission, and it is no small coincidence that we call celebrities idols. The real point of the imagery in the Old Testament, though, is that God wants to marry us. Only God is worthy of our worship, and it is only in being united to him in complete and utter intimacy that we can experience our fulfillment as humans.

There is nothing wrong with admiring celebrities for their gifts, talents and wisdom, but we must exercise that admiration with a substantial amount of discernment.

The photograph itself is a good picture (pun intended) of what God wants with us. As everyone knows, photos is the ancient Greek word for “Instagram,” and graphe is the ancient Greek word for “unique and excruciating torture for algebra students.” Not really. The word means “light writing.” A photograph, in a sense, is the writing that light makes on a light sensitive surface.

God wants to write the light of his love onto our hearts, a surface that is made to receive that particular kind of imprint. The perfect image of that love is the crucifix — the Academy of Love, as St. Francis de Sales called it. To gaze on the crucifix, literally and metaphorically, is to allow that light to penetrate our core and write itself there. We are to do the same and give ourselves up out of love for God and our neighbor. This is why the marks of the crucifix were inscribed physically in the bodies of some who have loved so much like Christ through the gift of the stigmata — a sign of singular conformity of one’s life to the Cross.

And of course there is the wedding feast, the Last Supper, where the groom imprints his image onto our heart by feeding us his very Self. As humans with a body he communicates his grace to us in a bodily way. This is the beauty of the sacraments — that God condescends to us and extends his unmerited help, a bounty of riches we cannot imagine, through material means. He unites himself to us who are undeserving through food.

In case you were wondering, the Yankees won the game in the 11th inning, and Aaron Judge hit one of the home runs. Not that we are idolizing him or anything.