The phenomenon of social media has more and more made its dramatic impact in the world and culture in which we live. Originally envisioned as a technological means of enhancing communication among the peoples of communities, nations and the world, we are seeing in these latter days, it’s dark side. Whether it’s influencing a National election by malevolent foreign forces leveraging its information power or creating witch-hunts labeling individuals latter-day heretics that should be silenced for their thoughts and perspectives, social media can be both a blessing as well as a curse.
My own introduction to the world of Facebook was slow in coming. While an active pastor, the last thing in the world I wanted to contend with was another vehicle for people ‘coming at me.’ However, with retirement and the encouragement of friends, I slowly took my own tentative steps in this form of social media. To my utter surprise, individuals whom I had come to know either in High School or in my early years in ministry, started requesting to ‘friend’ me. In a relatively short period of time, my list of Facebook ‘friends’ exceeded 600!
While I have enjoyed my fair share of ‘dancing Chihuahuas’ as well as following along on the travels of friends and acquaintances, there are those, like myself, who see social media as a means of sharing strongly held convictions, whether they be in the realm of religion and theology or the messy world of politics. Providing a forum for civil dialogue and engagement of the critical issues we face in the present moment, can be an important and positive gift that social media provides. Sadly, however, social media more often than not, can reflect the tensions and divisions that appear to be exacerbated in recent years among ourselves, whether as people of faith or citizens of this land.
It is with this in mind, that today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, provides a touchstone of wisdom and sanity, shaping the attitude that we should always strive for in our relationships with our sisters and brothers.
Paul reminds his hearers and all of us who strive to daily ‘put on the Lord Jesus,’ to
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
Following this passage, Biblical scholars tell us that St. Paul incorporates an ancient hymn into his letter that speaks of Christ, ‘pouring himself out’ in unfailing and unselfish love, as he embraced our humanity in the Christian mystery of the Incarnation. The one equal to the Father in divinity, ‘emptied’ himself, taking on our human existence with all its joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, and ultimately embracing the instrument of death, the cross, so that liberation might be gifted to all through his redemptive love and mercy. The heart of the Good News for Christians will be found in the humility of Christ, who refused to cling to his divinity, but out of self-less love, took on humanity for the life of the world.
It is precisely that same self-less and humble attitude that should characterize the quality of our daily relationships, one with another. It is this attitude that should be the unspoken sign of the name we carry as Christians.
This past week as we have heard the pleas of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico, in the wake of their devastating hurricane, we have seen this selfless attitude of individuals ‘pouring themselves out’ for others, in countless simple and humble gestures. Whether it is neighbors helping neighbors, first responders providing some solace to those in dire straits, or the countless relief agencies that have mobilized to provide assistance, all of this is a reflection of the humble service that Christ has called us to exemplify in our daily lives.
While it is so often easier for some to ‘curse the darkness’ – especially in the posts and tweets of social media, it is far better for us to be willing to ‘light one candle.’ And, in doing so, we become bearers of hope – a hope that in Christ, will never leave us disappointed.