Modern Gifts From God
People of faith sometimes disapprove, reflexively, of the stuff that constitutes modern life: movies, TV, the internet, social media, commerce, psychology, pop culture, and more. It’s easy to discount these things. They don’t necessarily grow from the same ground as those things that are the foundation of our Catholic faith. And they can readily be abused. So a common reaction is to be countercultural. But consider Pope Francis’ recent clear and unambiguous praise for the internet: We must be ready to give and to receive, the pope said earlier this year. “Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances,” he said. “The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.” If used wisely, he said, the internet “is something truly good. A gift from God.” (Wise use is key here. For ideas on that, please see Fr. Byron Miller’s column on page 5). Jim Auer’s dozenplus books include Handbook for Today’s Catholic Teen (Liguori, 2004). Jim writes for Liguorian regularly; he is a retired English and religion teacher. Fr. William J. Byron, SJ, author of Liguorian’s series on Catholic social teaching, has a doctorate in economics. Jim Heing, a freelance writer, focuses on the topics of faith and hope. He is the father of three. Fr. Norman Langenbrunner, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, taught high school and was a parish pastor. He preaches missions and retreats, To be sure, other popes have embraced technology, and many Catholics use it well. But what an interesting phrase: “A gift from God.” In this, the year of mercy, we should consider if we automatically apply disdain to certain areas of our life and whether that is the best response. We might fear or dislike the politician who challenges our principles, the teacher who gives us a bad grade, the colleague who urges us to reconsider a decision, a new scientific finding that confronts our beliefs, or a new way of communicating that tests our skills. This is all stuff that comes from modern life, and our instinct may be to respond with indifference or disregard all of it completely. But if, like the pope, we look for the good in these people and situations, what will we find? Perhaps we will find new ways of viewing ourselves and the world. New ways of reaching out. Gifts from God. Perhaps we will even find ways to actively participate in this, the year of mercy.