The Readings for the 23rd Wednesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.Luke 6:26 (NABRE)
THE NEED TO HAVE other speak well of one’s self is, perhaps not always as great as the need to have others speak well of one’s self in one’s own hearing. If word reaches us that so-and-so has said something bad it’s not, perhaps, as bad as if so-and-so had said it directly into our own ears. Possibly. At least for this writer, the constant quest for likes and shares has lead to the death of many a moment of spiritual growth.
More than that, the desire to have people speak well of one has, perhaps, become a way of life: we create tailored self-images on social mediae, sometimes multiple ones, to garner more likes. It’s not that one has a perfect life, but rather one has several perfect lives: social posting on FB, beautiful travel photos on Insta, a very wisdom-laden (or humor-laden) YouTube, a Twitter of perfect snark and spicy takes, and a blog of great vulnerability. They may not all weave well together, but different followers on different planets get views curated for them. And the like pour in. If one, like the present writer, works in tech as well, then one’s own job feels like that as well: doing something for the thumbs-up and for the pleasure of having people speak well within earshot.
Then I got a job where that’s not how things work at all.
Suddenly it was literally not about likes or shares, but about actual service to actual persons (which is what customer service – especially in tech – is exactly not about). Suddenly things were harder because there are real people expressing their own vulnerability and asking for help. And that does not always put people in the best of moods. And even that requires one to be loving.
Suddenly it got hard and that’s literally what it’s supposed to be: loving folks is not about likes and shares. In fact, it’s entirely antithetical to the culture created by likes.
One way to read Jesus’ list of blessing and woes is to see it as a commentary on the World vrs the Gospel. But another way to read it (in our present world) is just simply about the virtual world of the internet: the rich, the filled, the laughing, the being spoken well of are all virtual (because you can tell from Jesus’ words) they are all lies. If a blithering fool, lost in his sins and unaware of God, speaks well of you what value is it? If that same fool speaks ill of you because of God well, then, you’ve perhaps started on the pathway to Truth.
I don’t doubt that the internet is a new mission field. But, in some ways, we blunder into it unaware of the damage it does. We send n00bs in there, unprotected from the wiles of dopamine addictions, and wonder why they get looped into the culture – going native.
We’ve sent former alcoholics as evangelists on a tour of all the distilleries in Scotland. God bless you, go win some souls for Jesus out there among all the malts and barleys.
We should let only the most advanced monastics into the internets as evangelists, and even they might have trouble telling the virtual from the real, telling the likes and shares from the actual winning of souls. The latter is what Jesus sends us out to do, the former will cost us our own.