Resist gossiping, stop trolling, and maybe just put away your electronic device altogether! This is, in essence, the wisdom of Pope Francis on how we should engage one another in our digital world. That may seem funny—to get advice from the Pope on electronic etiquette, but you’d be mistaken not to pay attention. You see, Pope Francis has over more than 40 million followers on Twitter, and set the record for amassing 1 million followers on Instagram in the shortest amount of time. He’s kind of a pro—or at least his team is! He offers these wise words in his new apostolic exhortation released on Monday, “Gaudete et Exsultate,” or “Rejoice and Be Glad: On the Call To Holiness in Today’s World”: “115. Christians too can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication…The result is a dangerous dichotomy, since things can be said there that would be unacceptable in public discourse, and people look to compensate for their own discontent by lashing out at others. It is striking that at times, in claiming to uphold the other commandments, they completely ignore the eighth, which forbids bearing false witness or lying, and ruthlessly vilify others. Here we see how the unguarded tongue, set on fire by hell, sets all things ablaze (cf. Jas 3:6).” You and I are surrounded by words. Words we hear, words we see, words we say, talking heads and truths diminished to 140 characters or less. Far too often, we are touched by half-truths and outright lies. Our information spaces are filled by an increasing din, filled not with words of common good or hope or generosity, but rather by the discontent of those who can shout the loudest. None of this is meant to silence real grievance or honest lament—these are good and necessary for our common life. What you and I will hear this Sunday is that we are called to be witnesses to the Word made Flesh which brings life. Indeed, we might be called to silence first so that our words might come from a place of truth, honesty, and integrity. Far too often, silence is overlooked for seeming relevant. To reflect in silence It is not an easy thing—not in this world, not at this time. And yet we are called to respect the dignity of all and speak out when such dignity is denied, but never forgetting our central call to love in the way of Jesus.
See you Sunday!