Thursday, November 19, 2015

Better Start Praying Because the Internet Is Not God

St. Augustine of Hippo
To continue with my last post's question about the Church needing to be a place of serenity and refuge amid so  much stress and conflict in the world, I want to say something about prayer and the Internet.

I'm old enough that I lived over half of my life (so far) without the Internet. I can still remember the first email I got and being amazed by it. I love the Internet. I love being able to keep in touch with people, read articles that I might never have otherwise seen, and learn about things that I would never know otherwise. The Internet and social media provide what appears to be an infinite amount of ideas, thoughts, articles, opinions, and opportunities to engage in discussions and debates (arguments?). But, it is only the appearance of the infinite. In actuality, it is still a finite reality.

In the end, our desire is for that which actually is infinite. Our desire is for God. We should be careful that we do not become imprisoned by the Internet and social media. The only way not to be imprisoned by the finite is to live a friendship of prayer with the Infinite. Have I prayed today? Have I read the scriptures or some spiritual reading, like the life of a saint? Or, have I become imprisoned by the cycle of news stories, political ideologies, and demagoguery? 

Sometimes, we forget that we have the privilege of living a friendship with God. Pause and just think about that. We can engage in a conversation with God! As great as the Internet and social media are, they can become inimical to a strong spiritual life. They appear to satisfy our inner hunger but, in the end, they cannot satisfy the soul's desire for God.

Social media and the internet can also imprison us in the present moment, detaching us from a sense of belonging to a culture that has been built up over centuries. We lose our sense of belonging to the communion of saints.  Snapchats disappear instantaneously, newsfeeds rapidly update, and everything becomes about what happened in the past five minutes. Reading the scriptures and the lives of the saints reminds us that we are part of a people that has a history, a foundation, and a destiny.

When you opened your eyes this morning, did you pray first or check your emails? Did you read God's Word today or did you only read words written by mere mortals on the Internet? Did you pray for others today or did you only "like" their status? Did you give God glory today or did you only glorify the political candidates of your choice? Were you more passionate today about building up the Kingdom of God or building up your fantasy football team? Were you really present to the people you were with today or were you really with your iPhone? 

This Internet examination of conscience--which should also include such things as pornography and uncharitable comments about others--is just something that might be helpful to all of us. Advent is fast approaching and so is the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is a fitting time for us to remember that our heart desires the Infinite and that at Christmas, the Infinite became flesh and made His dwelling among us. It is a good opportunity to fix our gaze on the person of Jesus Christ. 

I'm not bashing the Internet and social media. I really enjoy them. But, this is just a reminder that the Internet is not God and social media isn't either. We need to nourish our souls through sacred reading and through devout prayer. Our heart is made for God. No amount of articles, debates, friends, followers, or likes is going to satisfy our hearts because, as St. Augustine discovered long before the Internet was discovered, "You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

1 comment:

  1. A good reminder for us all. Thank you Fr. Barnes.