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Sep 04, 2021 293 Deacon Jim McFadden,
Engage

Clean Up the Mental Mess

Is technology shaping your consciousness? If so, it’s time to re think

The recent cyber-attacks in the U.S which led to gas shortages, panic buying, and worries about meat shortages—drove home how dependent we are on technology to function in our modern society. Such dependency has spawned new and unique mental, psychological, and spiritual challenges. Our days are spent on “screen time” seeking out our news, entertainment, and emotional and intellectual stimulation. But as we navigate through life via our digital devices and technology, we do not realize how they are shaping our consciousness.

Such dependency raises a basic question: does technology, an extension of reason, form our consciousness; has it become our primary orientation towards life? Many today would unapologetically answer, “Yes”. For many, reason and logic are the only way to “see.” But Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians offers a different view through a pithy statement that summarizes the Christian life: “…we walk by Faith, not by sight” (5:7)

A Powerful Insight

As Christians, we perceive the world through our bodily senses, and we interpret that sensory data. through our rational interpretative lenses just like non-believers do. But our primary orientation is not given to us by the body or reason, it is given by faith. Faith has nothing to do with gullibility, superstition, or naivete. We do not have to put our Chromebooks, iPads, and smartphones, in the closet. Through faith we integrate our sensory perceptions and rational inferences into our relationship with God and others. Through faith we can appreciate Jesuit poet Gerald Manly Hopkins’ powerful insight that “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

Perception and reason–walking by sight—is good and necessary; indeed, that is where we start. But as Christians we walk primarily by faith. That means we are attentive to God and the movement of God within our ordinary experience. The contemporary spiritual writer Paula D’Arcy put it this way, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” And that cannot be a matter of direct vision or rational insight. To see life charged with God’s grandeur or to grasp that we do not have to look for God because God is in the very fabric of our life can be done only by faith, which goes beyond reason without contradicting it.

Missing-in-Action?

So, as we furtively emerge from our pandemic exile in which so many have suffered great pain and loss we may ask, where was God in all of this? What is God up to? Usually, the eyes of reason cannot see the answer. But we walk by faith, not just by sight. What God is doing happens slowly and in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. God is always acting! He is never missing-in-action! From the smallest beginnings can come the accomplishment of God’s purposes. We know this from the prophet Ezekiel who sang of Israel’s great universal destiny which was prophesied during the Exile in which they lost everything!

Five hundred years after Ezekiel, Jesus makes much the same point. We read in the Gospel according to Saint Mark, “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed in the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how” (4:26-27).

Ready for a Surprise

God is working, but we cannot see it with our ordinary eyes; we cannot understand it with our ordinary categories; no app is going to give us that access. God is at work and we know not how. That is okay. We walk by faith not by sight.

This is why in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus also says the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed—the smallest of all the seeds of the earth, but once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants, so that “birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (4:32). It is not easy for us to enter into this logic of the unforeseeable nature of God and to accept His mysterious presence in our life. But especially during this time of uncertainty, loss, and cultural/political divisiveness God exhorts us to walk by faith which exceeds our plans, calculations, and predictions. God is always at work and He will always surprise us. The parable of the mustard seed invites us to open our hearts to surprises, to God’s plans, both at the personal level and that of the community.

In all our relationships—familial, parish, political, economic, and social—it is important that we pay attention to the little and big occasions in which we can live the Great Commandments—loving God and neighbor. That means we disengage from the divisive rhetoric so prevalent on television and social media that causes us to objectify our sister and brothers. Since we walk by faith and not sight we engage in the dynamics of love, of welcoming and showing mercy towards others.

Never Give Up

The authenticity of the Church’s mission, which is the mission of the Risen and Glorified Christ, does not come through programs or successful outcomes, but from going forth, in and through Christ Jesus, to walk with Him courageously, and to trust that our Father’s will always bear fruit. We go forth professing that Jesus is Lord, not Caesar or his successors. We understand and accept that we are a small mustard seed in the hands of our loving Heavenly Father who can work through us to bring about the Kingdom of God.

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Deacon Jim McFadden

Deacon Jim McFadden ministers at the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Folsom, California. He is a teacher of theology and serves in the Adult Faith Formation, baptismal preparation, spiritual direction, and prison ministry.

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