Theme: We are Members of One Another (Eph 4:25): From Social Network Communities to the Human Community.
The Church has always, since the advent of the social networks, been promoting a positive use of the internet in such a way that it becomes a tool that leads to the building of a real community with the human face. Thus, despite the fact that the internet has become a community where people meet more frequently, it is not to replace the one on one human encounter, which will make it to serve the tool of isolation instead of connection. Therefore, every user of the internet must be conscious of the following facts:
1. The Metaphor of the Net and Community
The existence of the internet has made readily available information that in the past was considered unreachable. It has made easy the exchange of ideas and the sharing of knowledge. However, we cannot underestimate the danger in this wonderful gift of the Creator, since if not properly controlled, it can become the channel of sharing false, fake, deceptive and misleading information, aimed at offering those who converge at it a distorted fact. While the internet provides us with a community where new discoveries can be made and new friendships established, it can also lead to the manipulation of the real human community wherein the other is used to one’s advantage without any respect for his or her dignity.
2. We are Members of One Body.
The idea of the one body is one of the profound ways by which St Paul describes the relatedness of the members of the Church with one another, and their union with Christ, the Head of that body (read Eph 4). The internet offers us the opportunity to see this in operation as it provides the opportunity of intermingling of people from different races, faith systems and socio-political interests. Still, a real community is based on truth where each member, without violating the dignity of another member, can speak the truth to him or to her. This fact is less true about the internet. On the contrary, as a free world, it is sometimes filled with falsehood and lies. This arises from the false perception of other members of the internet community as competitors instead of children of one community built on love and others. This can be overturned by the realisation of the truth of our belonging to one another which helps to consider our enemies as co-members of the same community. This will consequently lead to the promotion of love which, most times, is not seen radiated in the internet.
3. The Image of the Trinity.
The inner life of God, the Trinity, is a perfect example of the community we are called to build on the internet, which should be a reflection of the true human community. The bond that exists among the three Divine Persons: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, is love. The only virtue that makes interpersonal relationships possible is love. The absence of love promotes the building of a community ruled by self love and selfishness. God is a community of Persons. Hence, it is the wish of God that we, made in his image and likeness, should appreciate the gift of community. The internet can help in achieving this if its users recognise their need of others not for a selfish motive, but for the purpose of travelling together for a common purpose: building a true community of loving and caring people.
4. From a “Like” to an “Amen.”
The image of the body which we spoke about earlier reminds us of the capacity to use the internet to build a fraternal community of mutual support for each other. The internet can be of help in fostering unity among the members of the same families or faith communities. It can bring the people together. A family, for instance, can employ the use of the internet to remind its members of the time they must come together for meals and meetings. The same way, a faith community can make use of the internet to call its members together for prayers and other pious activities. Members of the same families or communities can employ the internet to get in touch with each other, sharing their ideas and feelings. Hence, it helps to go beyond the level of diagnosis to the level of treatment which opens the way for true dialogue and encounter. We can then see how the Church, through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, in which the many members, share in one bread, offers us the model of the true human community that the internet is called to promote.
In all, the internet is not to serve a purpose of replacement of human encounter. Instead, it should help to facilitate the rate of our human inter-personal relationships. It is only by so doing does it truly stand as a gift in our hands from the Creator.