The Catholic Christian presence on the Internet is so important nowadays. A few years ago TV and radio were the massive means of communication. Today it’s clear that they’ve all come together in one: the Internet.
Pope Benedict XVI, when speaking about social communication in 2009, urged youth with these words: “Dear Brothers and Sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communication and information technology the values on which you have built your lives”.
We’re no longer speaking of the internet as merely a tool for evangelization, but of an environment, a common place in which we all encounter. So it’s important to keep in mind these 7 tips that we are sharing. They will help you improve your personal experience on social media and carry Jesus’s message to many of your friends.
The key to this point is to always build. A Church that builds is a Church that raises the Kingdom of Christ on earth. One’s own testimony of faith transferred to others will radiate light. It’s not very common that a young person decides to speak publicly of their faith since, generally, they will receive only questioning or criticism. But this doesn’t matter.
Attacks must always be met with Jesus’ teaching: love. The day will come in which we won’t know how to answer these criticisms or persecutions- that’s normal. We don’t know it all, but we can always humbly say something like: “I don’t really know, but I’ll look it up”. Our authentic life testimony will lead others to catch that “something” that the Christian has, which is Jesus Christ. God is always at the essence of our preaching. Don’t be afraid to speak of God on your social media! Encourage yourself to share your faith with others!
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God” (2 Timothy 5-8).
Having a public life online brings critics, opinions, comments and endless reactions. Our message is not always well-received. Sometimes, we are “attacked”, and I say “attacked” in quotation marks because I believe these situations can be turned into opportunities.
Yes, every attack or offense is an opportunity to show what we are, to tell our neighbors that we love them, to be authentic Christians while being constructive with our words. It’s not hard, but it requires a great deal of humility and reflection, because a single moment can ignite rage in us, causing us to respond with a non-Christian attitude.
We must pause and think things through, value them, remember Christ’s example and then act. Saint Alberto Hurtado used to say: “In all, love and serve”, it should be so in our lives, where love leads us to reach out.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4, 29-32).
In my personal experience, I must say that this point is essential. As soon as we enter our social media apps or websites, we are bombed by all kinds of messages, sadly many of them negative, expressing discouragement and weariness in life.
What can we do?
Saint Francis of Assisi used to say: “O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…”. To place our attention on someone else is Christian behavior.
Social media and the Internet in general will always be a great gym to strengthen faith, encouraging the tired, consoling the tormented, cheer the dispirited and giving hope to those who have lost it. But you must have a strong heart to avoid falling into discouragement yourself. Work out as a Christian at the gym of charity!
“Son, if you decide to serve the Lord, prepare your soul for the test. Straighten your heart, be firm, and do not be unsettled when misfortune comes. Join the Lord and do not drift away, so that at the end of your days you may be exalted. Willingly accept everything that happens to you and be patient in the vicissitudes of your humiliation. Because gold is purified in fire, and those who please God, in the vase of humiliation. Trust him, and he will come to your aid, straighten your ways and wait in him” (Ecclesiastes 2, 1-6).
A sign of respect and humility is to listen when others speak and to stay silent when you don’t know the answer. Being a Catholic does not mean having all the answers. Sometimes, the best advice is to remain quiet and the best way to defend faith is silence.
That’s why, if we don’t know a topic the best thing to do is be silent and avoid meaningless discussions that would lead us nowhere because of our lack of knowledge. However, whenever we can, we must make an effort to deepen our faith and get informed, even of the latest news regarding the Church, to avoid being caught unprepared.
Always, honesty and humility. To say: “I’m unaware”, “I don’t know”, “honestly, I’m not clear on that particular subject” will always show humility. Leave the rest to the Lord. The greatest weapon we Catholics can wield is love, and, by loving, we will conquer.
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain” (Titus 3, 8-9).
What a great example converts to Catholicism set! They have met Christ face to face and discovered Him as a treasure, as their treasure. As Jesus’s parable in the Gospel: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides, and joyfully goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” (Mathew 13, 44).
They have left everything to live in Christ. He’s the true treasure of our lives. A treasure that we can keep to ourselves, or a treasure that is shared. Sometimes, without words, we carry the message of love. “For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2, 15)
Let our lives smell and taste of Christ. How cheerful the heart becomes when we take Jesus to others!
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So, then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10, 14-17).
The problem is when we lead a very showy or pretentious “social” life on the Internet. We might show ourselves as Jesus’s followers, authentic Christians, full of life and profound prayer, but in real life, there are only scraps of that faith.
We party every weekend and do things that contradict our faith. Sometimes, we believe. Other times, we abandon. We say yes and later we deny it. Nowadays, we are public individuals, especially Christians (who are frequently put under a microscope).
If on social media you’re seen as a pious person who is committed to God, and in everyday life you’re seen drunk and “living life” as if there was no tomorrow… something is not right. Sooner or later living a double life will end up driving more than one person away from faith… Being Jesus’ witness means being authentic, always living only one life.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3, 12-15).
Our mission is often “to be the light amidst the darkness”. Without believing that everything in the world is wrong or dark (because it’s not), we must realize that, one way or another, we carry Jesus with us.
We enlighten with our words, our gestures, our actions, our thoughts, our very selves. But to give light, we must be the lamp. Leading a “dark” life while being a Catholic is certainly not going to enlighten anyone.
But always remember that Jesus left us the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Reconciliation, to revive the flame inside us. They can bring us back to the light, resurrect us from sin, to the life that is Christ. Don’t be afraid to turn to them, and you’ll be light to others every second of your life.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5, 14-16).
In the digital era, a true testimony will be something for your friends to lean on. Good is contagious. It spreads on its own. If each of us committed ourselves to living according to the Gospel, if we all gave a little, we’d get incredibly far and transform the world.
In a tweet Pope Francis leaves us a very deep message: “Do not underestimate the value of example, because it holds more strength than a thousand words, than thousands of “likes” or “retweets”, than a thousand videos on YouTube” (February 23rd, 2017). In fact, an authentic testimony of Christian life, true, unmasked, sincere and eloquent will change the world.
You want to be part of this change? Keep in mind these 7 tips, get going and be renewed. The Church needs you, Christ needs you… We all need you!
Written by H. Edgar Henríquez Carrasco
Translated by: María Isabel Giraldo
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