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Jesus Doesn't Need Social Media

I woke this morning to the socialist fist being displayed on the Facebook logo under the guise of it being part of the celebration of black history month. I decided immediately that I would uninstall the app from my phone, which is impossible on this device I supposedly own because I don’t want this symbol of anti-Americanism in my face for the next 28 days. I hesitated because: How will the Gospel spread if I retreat from social media? My voice is necessary. “They” will win if I turn away. With all these reasons running through my head, I was quickly given what sounds like a harsh reminder that brought me peace. Jesus doesn’t need you, at least not in the way you think. 

I read a book a few years back, whose title escapes me, that spoke of the treatment of religious orders during the French Revolution. An effort was being made to wipe out religion and the dominant role it played in French society. One way the revolutionaries did this was to eliminate religious orders and communities.  The way they went about deciding which ones were shut down and which ones were allowed to continue to function in some form was whether they did anything useful. “Useful” was defined as something that produced a tangible result, such as being a nurse or teacher. This narrow definition of “useful” led to the disbanding and shuttering of many contemplative communities. This was clear evidence of the lack of understanding most people had during the revolution, and to this day, have about the extreme importance that religious orders have in maintaining the spiritual, mental, and physical well-being of the Church and throughout the world. 

Having Jesus and His Church at the center of your life is not something many can understand. When I was considering the priesthood at one point and at another, entering a Benedictine community, many years ago, the comment I often got from Catholics and non-Catholics alike was something along the lines of “your talents will be wasted”. This was said mainly in reference to my hair cutting abilities but also to my ability to evangelize. While I understood their concern, I was also aware of their lack of awareness and understanding, but that didn’t stop me from following their advice and diving into working in the salon and letting go of some of that “useless” contemplation. 

Months after becoming the manager at work, I was encouraged to read a book by Josef Peiper called Leisure: The Basis of Culture, where I was presented with a novel perspective. “...The ancients said that there rightly exist non-useful forms of human activity… Not everything that cannot exactly be categorized as “useful “is useless… Respect be granted, for what is not “useful work “in the sense of immediate application… Is necessary for the perfection of the human community, that there be persons who devote themselves to the [useless] life of contemplation...”. This was a life-altering perspective shift. 

Another piece of seemingly useless information that comes in to play, in my perspective on social media, was the life of Jacinta, one of the three children who received the message from Our Lady of Fatima. I, once again, do not remember where I read this, but it was an interview with her where she was questioned as to whether or not she had lived out Our Lady's command to her to spread the message of Fatima throughout the world since she had chosen a life of contemplation, prayer, and seclusion. Her response was that she had indeed spread the message exactly by living the way that seemed to the world contrary to spreading the message. I took this to mean that she was more powerful in contemplation and prayer than she ever could’ve been out walking the streets, spreading the good news through her words.

This brings me back to social media and the battle we are in to win souls. We live in a world of talk. The ability to community, debate, and argue is highly valued. I certainly value the limited gifts God has given me to use in this vein. I know how persuasive the words of those who think and see differently can be, so when I read or hear something contrary to or attacking the established truth, my mouth goes into action. I must speak up. I must be Jesus's hands and mouth. If  I don’t speak up, who will? How will the truth be known if we remain silent? So, my hands get to typing. My mouth gets to running. And at the end of all the activity, I feel I have been useful. But have I? Or have I been tricked into thinking that my hands and mouth are the main tools that Jesus wants me to use in this battle?

We are to follow Jesus's example when it comes to how we engage with society. Battle for Jesus has never been engaged in the way we think it should be engaged. He didn’t use His words as a weapon. He didn’t bludgeon people with the truth. He didn’t seek out public forums to debate in. He also didn’t shrink from them when they came to Him, but He did not go out looking for a fight. And often, He retreated from the confrontations. And spent time alone with His Father. This is how He fought. 

A recurring image for me is something I saw in my head many years ago while on retreat at St Anselm’s Abbey. I was reading a book called Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser. Much of the book spoke to me but a few lines in particular brought me to a better understanding of how we are to fight. “Jesus' invitation to him (rich young man) is Jesus' invitation to every good man or woman to move from goodness to greatness…go sell everything you have, give the money to the poor and come follow Me… Why not become all flame?“ The words “become all flame” created an image in my head of a monk kneeling in prayer completely inflamed. In prayer and consumed by the Flame. Not arguing, not typing, not marching or stomping my feet and crossing my arms, but kneeling in prayer. A prayer warrior fighting from my knees, completely at ease in my reliance on Jesus as He was on His Father. This fight is what will transform the world and those in it. 

Jesus spoke and prayed. Both/and, not either/or. His words had power because the love of the Father was behind them. The love He received by being with the Father not by talking about Him and defending Him exclusively. He calls me to follow in His steps as He calls all of His brothers and sisters through Baptism. 

So Facebook really doesn’t matter, nor does Twitter or TikTok or Instagram or any of the other forms of social media that seek to shut down people's access to our voices. Our voices don’t matter as much as we obviously think they do, or we wouldn’t be freaking out over the loss of our presence on these platforms. What matters is a deep abiding closeness with our Trinitarian God and our complete reliance on Him for everything. St Peter and St Paul didn’t need a YouTube channel to evangelize the world, and neither do we. 

Written 2/1/21

Human-written, AI spell-checked

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