Shining Christ’s Light on Internet Bickering

What is mercy, but God’s love poured out? I cannot think of anything world need more.

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

What we have learned from social media?

We’ve learned that we don’t actually like learning as much as we like thinking that we already know. We don’t like arguing — we like ending the discussion with others surrendering or going away defeated. We don't want to read or research — we want others to have done the work for us so we can just spout the stats or the assertion with little examination or diving into the data ourselves. We don’t want to convert hearts or change minds — we want to declare thinking like anyone other than ourselves is unworthy of a person who wishes to be considered a human being.

We have a thousand glass houses at which we’re throwing boulders and at the same time we’re convinced that we’re somehow immune from the diseased effects of rage.

We do not spend time loving people as much as we spend time telling people to make themselves more loveable. Jesus didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more before he told her he did not condemn her. Jesus did not demand thanks or praise before healing all the lepers. He did not demand it afterward either. Jesus went to Zachariah’s house to dine before Zachariah declared the good he would do to make amends for the harms and sins of his life.

The thing we forget, in imagining ourselves in the company of Jesus, is that he loves us despite our sins, and that is true for everyone. 

It is easy to dismiss and condemn people for their visible sins, verbal and actual, as displayed on the internet. It is easy to declare that they failed the humanity test, that they deserve whatever they get.

But that’s not how Christ works. It’s not how Christ loves. Christ loves us to the cross and from the cross. He loves us to beyond death, to the last drop of blood poured out, to the point of being finished. It doesn't mean our sins don’t matter — it means in the presence of his love, we recognize why we must stop sinning. 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We could argue that they knew — they condemned an innocent man to death. Pilate told them he found no fault. He washed his hands.

Some of the people in the crowd knew him from his miracles. Some may have been among the 5,000 or had been healed or had a friend healed. People saw him raise Lazarus from the dead!

Given all the evidence, there was no way anyone should have shouted, “Crucify him!” Yet they did. Given all the evidence of willingness to crucify him, there’s no way Jesus should still, even from the cross, plead for mercy on us — yet He does.

It’s very easy to see why everyone else needs to reform, to rend their hearts, and to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” It’s much harder to recognize that “it must begin with me” and that me means each of us, all of us, striking our breasts and saying, “My fault, my fault, my grievous fault.” 

So how do we go forward? How do we (to paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien) fix the world when so much bad has happened?

We hold on. We hold on to the good in this world that’s worth fighting for, and we persist in holding onto that goodness.

Breathe on the embers of good. Cultivate it in your own life online, and in real life. Be a source of kindness, justice, beauty, salt and light even when it is hard, even when it costs.

You’ll know you’re being a Catholic when it costs. Christ tells us this reality: “Take up your cross and follow me.” That doesn’t leave much wiggle room in what one should expect. The Resurrection comes through the cross, through the road to the cross, and through embracing it all the way unto death. The phrase, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” is spoken to those who imitate the Son, who offer even from the cross of their lives, more mercy.

For what is mercy, but love returned for hate given, kindness for cruelty endured, forgiveness and forbearance for sins and ills suffered? What is mercy, but God’s love poured out? I cannot think of anything the world needs more.

Michelangelo, “The Last Judgment,” 1536-1541

Dare We Admit That Not All Will Be Saved?

“To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell.’” (CCC 1033)