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pope cyberbullyingArchbishop Eamon Martin warmly welcomed the content of Pope Francis’ message, published today on the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, for World Communications Day 2019.  This annual celebration will be marked on Ascension Sunday, 2 June.  This year’s theme: ‘We are members one of another (Eph 4:25) From social network communities to the human community’ highlights the importance of the internet and social media as a resource, but also emphasises the risks that accompany it, in terms of the sharing of authentic information and the increase of cyberbullying among young people.

In his message today, Pope Francis tells us that, “the metaphor of the net recalls another meaningful image: the community”, but that at present, “social network communities are not automatically synonymous with community”.  A community is one that thrives on mutual listening and dialogue.  Pope Francis notes in particular that “young people are the ones most exposed to the illusion that the social web can completely satisfy them on a relational level.  There is the dangerous phenomenon of young people becoming ‘social hermits’ who risk alienating themselves completely from society.  This dramatic situation reveals a serious rupture in the relational fabric of society, one we cannot ignore.”  He goes on to say that, “while governments seek legal ways to regulate the web and to protect the original vision of a free, open and secure network, we all have the possibility and the responsibility to promote its positive use.”  Pope Francis suggests that a possible answer can be drawn from the words of Saint Paul, “Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each to his neighbour, for we are members one of another” (Eph 4:25).

birth of jesusWhile Christmas is the birthday of Jesus, that may or may not be what we are celebrating. In countries where Christian faith is the root of our culture, many who are no longer believers, no longer Christian, still celebrate Christmas.

Christmas tugs at the heart. It lures us into its spirit. What is it that draws us? Is it just memory, memory of childhood and Christmases past? Is it nostalgia for a world that once was but is no more? Why are presents and presence, giving gifts and being with others, being grateful and belonging so much part of this time of year?  Attending to what is going on in our minds and hearts, reflecting on what we are doing and why, is one of the most precious gifts of Christmas. Christmas invites us to listen.

AdventAs we begin a new Church year, the Gospel (Lk. 21: 25-28) of the First Sunday of Advent, curiously, presents vividly a picture of a world collapsing. Creation is falling apart.  The work of God’s creation is being undone. The lamps that hung in the sky to light the earth are sending out distress signals. The waters that had once covered the earth, that God siphoned off into seas, are returning. Human kind no longer has a place of safety and security and people are terrified by roar of collapse.  Whether collapse is cosmic, earthquakes, fires, floods, gales; social political or economic anarchy, threatening the social order, sickness and death of the collapse of our personally constructed worlds of meaning, collapse happens in the world we inhabit. Things fall apart and so do we. In a fragile, threatening world, how can we, vulnerable people, stand, endure and live?

If we give ourselves over totally to the physical, material and social world, we will collapse with them. There is, however, another dimension of ourselves not subject to collapse, a place to take a stand and endure, something not vulnerable to breakdown? We need to discover that dimension, to be in touch with it, to inhabit it. The task of this Advent season is to find it. That dimension is the Spirit in each of us, the Spirit of God in whose image we have been created. Every collapse is an opportunity for a new beginning. Preparing for Christmas is readying ourselves to encounter the Lord who is with us, who is in us and through whom we too can triumph over chaos and adversity.