I think that most people think that the internet is a good thing and makes our lives easier. The world is made a smaller place by it. Our access to information and knowledge is at our fingertips. You can book a holiday, you can buy something (anything) online, you can find out anything, research things instantly.
But the more we are aware of its advantages we are also aware of its dangers. There is a growing criminality that goes with it, people can hack into information, it exerts a control over people, data can be sold on, passed on without your permission to others. You look for a piece of furniture and before you know it you get 4 unwanted and unlooked for emails from companies you never knew and never accessed.
The existence of the internet reminds us that we are in the midst of a communications revolution as great as the industrial revolution of the past.
Social communication is out there on the internet too, FB, Instagram, snap chat. People are constantly on them. They are amazing things, an instant way to communicate, to stay in touch, to get a message out there. But we know that even here there are dangers: misinformation, bullying, people say things on FB and places like it that they should never say, would never say to someone’s face, ought never to say. They feel free in the semi anonymity to vent their anger, express their opinions in ways that they shouldn’t.
There is something about this form of social communications that has changed communications between people. It has become more coarse, more sharp, mire critical, more judgemental. This is my own opinion has made some people harsher, more critical, less tolerant and it has made some people less open, less free, less willing to let you know what they think, more closed.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Like everything it has its good points and bad points. The jury is out.
I notice that very often social communication is used by very conservative groups in the wider church to pump out misinformation, lies and say things about people that are absolutely untrue. These groups who want to put the church into reverse, who want to go back the way to a golden age that never existed feel free to say anything from the Pope down on their websites and their FB pages. They have an agenda that is their own and not of the spirit. Very often it is a creed that mixed up with conservative, reactionary forces in society that is out there. They want to make the Church a Church of the 1950s or even the 19th century. The worrying thing is that they catch in their nets people who can be manipulated, who think that because it is in print, on the screens it is true. These groups want to make the Church, a place for the few, for the good for the elect. The Church was never meant to be like this and history tells us that every time people tried to make it like that, sensible voices wise heads and hearts led it away from that. It is a roof and is wide, its doors are wide, everyone is welcome.
The internet and social communications have become a tool in their hands. Misinformation, half truths abound. Cruel and harsh judgments are made. Just as there should be caution in using the internet so there should be extreme caution in listening to their message.
St Matthew, whom we hear of today at Mass, has similar problems wrestling with the early Christian community. There were people who wanted to put them in reverse. To impose the Law, customs and traditions on the gentiles. There is every evidence, again from Matthew’s Gospel, that things got nasty. People were turned out of the synagogue, families were divided and forbidden to speak to converts, they didn’t eat with them, didn’t look at them, put them in prison. That sense of conflict runs through the Gospel
Instead he says rise above it. Be like light of the world and salt of the earth.
He repeats that message in other place. When people want to slap you on one cheek offer the other. When people are looking for your tunic, give them your cloak. When people want to walk one mile with you walk an extra mile. When people want to borrow give without charge.
Be light of the world and salt of the earth. Be more generous, more forgiving, mire loving, more caring, mire compassionate, mire merciful, be mnore if everything. Be a light t the world and salt to the earth.
We live in different times. The clock cannot be turned back to a different age. This new age offers us things which were impossible in a different age, infinite possibilities for good things. But the message remains the same – be light to the world and salt to the earth. Pick your way nimbly through the thorns and brambles of social communication and the internet and social communications and be a light to the world and salt to the earth.