Hidden Treasure

Posted in: Popular Culture by bill-o on April 18, 2009

By now, many of you have already heard of Susan Boyle. She’s the amateur singer whose appearance on the third season of the television show Britain’s Got Talent has received critical acclaim throughout, not just Britain, but the whole world.

Boyle, 47 years old and unemployed at the time of her television tryout, lives in a village in Scotland. She had put her own singing aspirations on hold to take care of her ailing mother, who died in 2007.

When Boyle first stepped onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent, both the audience appeared to be skeptical, because of her seemingly unattractive appearance and her age. Yet once she began to sing, many in the audience sensed that they had just heard the voice of an angel.

We can be reminded of many things from Ms. Boyle’s experience and the worldwide reaction to her.

1.  Appearances Are Deceiving.  Ms. Boyle’s simple and plain appearance hid the tremendous and beautiful talent that she has inside of her. Ms. Boyle, who also has learning disabilities, even refuses to consent to a makeover. The Western world has just spent a generation focusing on looking at appearances instead of paying attention to the importance of the substance that lies beneath the surface. That now needs to change and is beginning to do so.

2.  Age.  Typically, if someone doesn’t “make it” in the music industry by about age 30, then they usually won’t ever be very popular nor succeed in the music business. Ms. Boyle is 17 years beyond age 30, yet she was catapulted to worldwide success in one audition. Perhaps this is an indication of a growing respect for and appreciation of middle-aged and senior people and their talents, let alone the wisdom and experiences that they have to share.

3.  “I Dreamed A Dream”.  Ms. Boyle’s audition song was “I Dreamed A Dream” from the musical Les Miserables. As Wikipedia says, “[t]he lyrics [of the song] are about lost innocence and broken dreams”. In the musical, it is sung by Fantine, who was forced into a life of prostitution in the midst of the harsh social conditions of early 19th-century France. The song is Fantine’s lament over the unfair treatment that she has received in her life. How many of us have passed by those in the world around us who are poor or disadvataged? How many times did we easily dismiss the fact that they too, just like us, have dreams and hopes for themselves and for their families? That they too have hidden treasures and talents inside of them?

4.  Silencing Skepticism.  Let’s face it: we in the Western world live in a skeptical age. Yes, skepticism may have come first to Britain, but Americans, for example, aren’t exempt from a growing climate of suspicion and doubt about other people. Ms. Boyle’s first steps onto the stage drew clear laughs of skepticism. Yet once her “hidden treasure” was revealed, all doubts were overcome. Likewise, discovering true spiritual treasures silences the skepticism in our own hearts and replaces it with faith and joy.

Please also read James Martin’s article about Susan Boyle:


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The Donkey and the Colt

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on April 04, 2009

For those of you who are commemorating Palm Sunday (in Western Christianity, April 5, and in Eastern Christianity, April 12), this is the day where Christians remember the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem a few days before his arrest and crucifixion.

The Gospel of Matthew (Matthew chapter 21) depicts Jesus as riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. But Matthew’s account also mentions the presence of a second animal: a colt. The colt (foal) was probably the child of the donkey. As best as we can tell, Jesus was probably riding on the donkey with the colt walking along side of both of them.

Matthew’s story tells us that the disciples of Jesus placed garments on both animals. Yet Jesus, like most of us, would find it difficult if not impossible to ride two different animals at the same time. One possibility is that Jesus switched from riding the donkey to riding the colt at some point in his procession into Jerusalem. Another possibility presents how the young colt was prepared with garments, as was its mother; yet the younger animal was probably not ridden by Jesus or by anyone else on that first Palm Sunday. I would tend to agree with this second interpretation of the story. And with this interpretation comes a possible symbolism.

The two animals, the donkey and her colt, I would contend, are symbols of two generations. The donkey that Jesus was riding on represents what God is doing now. Yet the work of what God is doing now usually find its true fulfillment in the next generation. This is where God works “trans-generationally”: From spiritual fathers to spiritual sons, who in turn become spiritual fathers for a new generation of spiritual children.

What God is doing now (the donkey) will be completed in the next generation (the colt). Something to think about on this Palm Sunday.