Social Media & Our Call to Love

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 6, 2020

See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

So I still remember when Facebook was cool.

That magical time in which each college had to apply to be accepted onto the network.

And I clearly remember the excitement when little DeSales University got accepted into those elite ranks

Now Desales certainly did not need a social networking site to stay connected.  We were pretty small.  

Which is probably why we used Facebook as one giant platform for inside jokes. 

We developed status message updates that were cryptic and comical and poetic.  

We posted relationship status updates that would have people laughing over dinner, especially when our unsuspecting classmates were unaware that we had logged on from their account just to edit this feature.  

And we poked each other.  Because seriously that was a thing you could do.

In many ways, those early days of social media seem so foreign to the social media experience of today.  Facebook and Twitter.  Snapchat and Tiktok.  Instagram and Reddit

The professionalism that now shapes these sites:  The paid advertisements.  The global scope of their participants.  The way that every political persona, national organization and celebrity personality has a carefully constructed social media presence.

And yet, by far, the most troubling development has been the way in which social media has become an instrumental part of the coarsening of our national dialogue.  How trolling has become an accepted facet of how we interact with one another online.  How truth is now manipulated or outright fabricated.  How insult and slander, hatred and violence are now acceptable in the digital realm.

And not just from the anonymous stranger.  The nefarious other who I can safely blame or despise.  Or from the politician that I can easily dismiss or vilify.

No, this vitriol comes from people I know.  People I care about.  People I love.

I watch as they share memes that are offensive or completely inaccurate

I watch as they attack people on the other side of the political spectrum. Questioning their character, patriotism.  Sending them to hell.  

I read their comments and I am heartbroken.  I am infuriated.  I am demoralized.

For I am watching how these constant online battles are fracturing the social fabric that holds us together as a nation.

How we are retreating ever deeper into our tribal identities.  Viewing the outsider with fear and suspicion and hostility.

My friends, the violence in Wisconsin is not an accident.  And Kyle Rittenhouse is not an anomaly.

He is the logical outcome of battle lines that declare that the other is now my enemy.  

An enemy that I must destroy online and in person.

Victory is the only value.

And of course, my side is always right.  The sole possessor of truth.  The sole arbiter of justice.  

But as Christians, this is anathema to the readings just proclaimed.  This is the wickedness of which we are warned.  The evil that we must resist.  This is why I speak out this night.

For the Gospel we just heard says that even after multiple interventions with the one who has gone astray, we are to treat them as a tax collector.

Like the tax collector that Christ broke bread with.

The tax collector that Christ called forth to join the ranks of the disciples.

The tax collector that was forgiven and cherished and loved, before he made one step down the path of redemption.

We are to love them as our God has first loved us.

My friends, this call to be more than what the world expects of us is an imperative.  A command that is becoming more urgent with every passing day.

For the call to love one another as I have loved you is not a suggestion or a recommendation.

It is the defining mark of our faith.  

And the collective failure of the Christian people to live out this call hollows out our churches from within.  And leaves us standing as hypocrites, preaching a Gospel we don’t practice.

And so, how are we living out this call?

What is our social media presence doing to build the kingdom?

What do we post?  Why?  Is it true?

What do we share or retweet?  Have I read it?  Does it reflect the faith I profess?

When do we push the like button?  When do we comment or snap?  And should we?  

What is our language bringing to the national discourse?  Both online and face to face.

Are we healing or hurting?

Are we speaking words of life or death?

Are we proclaiming truth or peddling in lies and innuendo?

Are we living our life in love, out of love and for love?  

Will they know we are Christians by how we speak, how we act, how we love?

May God be Praised

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