Monday, 27 May 2019 07:59


"" We are members of one another "( Eph 4:25). 
From social network communities to the human community""

Photo Credit: Catholic News Agency


Dear brothers and sisters,

since the internet was available, the Church has always tried to promote its use in the service of meeting people and solidarity among all. With this message I would like to invite you once again to reflect on the foundation and importance of our being-in-relationship and to rediscover, in the vastness of the challenges of the current communicative context, the desire of the man who does not want to remain in his own solitude.

The metaphors of the "network" and the "community"

The media environment today is so pervasive as to be indistinguishable from the sphere of everyday life. The network is a resource of our time. It is a source of knowledge and relationships once unthinkable. Many experts, however, with regard to the profound transformations imparted by technology to the logic of production, circulation and use of contents, also highlight the risks that threaten research and the sharing of authentic information on a global scale. If the Internet represents an extraordinary possibility of access to knowledge, it is also true that it has turned out to be one of the places most exposed to the misinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which often take the form of discredit.

It is necessary to recognize that social networks, if on the one hand serve to connect us more, to make us find and help one another, for the other they also lend themselves to a manipulative use of personal data, aimed at obtaining political advantages or economic, without due respect for the person and his or her rights. Among the youngest, statistics reveal that one in four boys is involved in cyberbullying episodes . [1]

In the complexity of this scenario it may be useful to return to reflect on the metaphor of the network initially based on the Internet, to rediscover its positive potential. The figure of the network invites us to reflect on the multiplicity of paths and nodes that ensure its stability, in the absence of a center, of a hierarchical type structure, of a vertical type organization. The network works thanks to the sharing of all the elements.

Referred to the anthropological dimension, the metaphor of the network recalls another figure full of meaning: that of the community . A community is stronger the more it is cohesive and supportive, animated by feelings of trust and pursues shared goals. The community as a solidary network requires mutual listening and dialogue, based on the responsible use of language.

It is clear to everyone that, in the current scenario, the social network community is not automatically synonymous with community. In the best cases the communities manage to show cohesion and solidarity, but often they remain only aggregates of individuals who recognize themselves around interests or topics characterized by weak ties. Moreover, in the social webtoo often the identity is based on the opposition to the other, the stranger to the group: we define ourselves from what divides rather than from what unites, giving space to the suspicion and outburst of every type of prejudice ( ethnic, sexual, religious, and others). This trend feeds groups that exclude heterogeneity, which also feed unbridled individualism in the digital environment, sometimes ending up fomenting spirals of hatred. What should be a window on the world thus becomes a showcase in which to exhibit one's narcissism.

The network is an opportunity to promote the encounter with others, but it can also strengthen our self-isolation, like a web capable of trapping. It is the children who are most exposed to the illusion that the social web can totally satisfy them on the relational level, up to the dangerous phenomenon of young "social hermits" who risk being completely estranged from society. This dramatic dynamic manifests a serious breach in the relational fabric of society, a laceration that we cannot ignore.

This multiform and insidious reality poses various questions of an ethical, social, juridical, political and economic nature, and also challenges the Church. While governments seek ways of legal regulation to save the original vision of a free, open and secure network, we all have the possibility and responsibility to favor its positive use.

It is clear that it is not enough to multiply the connections because it also increases mutual understanding. So how can we find the true community identity in the awareness of the responsibility we have towards each other even in the online network?

"We are members of one another"

A possible answer can be sketched starting from a third metaphor, that of the body and members , which St. Paul uses to talk about the relationship of reciprocity between people, founded in an organism that unites them. "Therefore, banish the lie and tell each one the truth to his neighbor, because we are members of one another" ( Eph 4:25). Being members of one anotherit is the profound motivation with which the Apostle exhorts to lay the lie and tell the truth: the obligation to preserve the truth stems from the need not to deny the reciprocal relationship of communion. Truth is revealed in communion. The lie instead is the egoistic refusal to recognize one's belonging to the body; it is the refusal to give oneself to others, thus losing the only way to find oneself.

The metaphor of the body and the members leads us to reflect on our identity, which is based on communion and otherness. As Christians we all recognize ourselves as members of the one body of which Christ is the head. This helps us not to see people as potential competitors, but also to consider enemies as people. There is no longer any need for the adversary to self-define himself, because the gaze of inclusion that we learn from Christ makes us discover otherness in a new way, as an integral part and condition of the relationship and proximity.

This capacity for understanding and communication between human persons has its foundation in the communion of love between the Divine Persons. God is not Solitude, but Communion; it is Love, and therefore communication, because love always communicates, indeed it communicates itself to meet the other. To communicate with us and to communicate to us God adapts to our language, establishing in history a true and proper dialogue with humanity (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council , Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum , 2).

By virtue of our being created in the image and likeness of God who is communion and self-communication, we always carry in our hearts the longing to live in communion, to belong to a community. "In fact," says San Basilio, "it is as specific to our nature as to enter into relationship with each other, to need one another." [2]

The current context calls all of us to invest in relationships, to affirm the interpersonal character of our humanity also in the network and through the network. All the more reason we Christians are called to manifest that communion that marks our identity as believers. Indeed, faith itself is a relationship, a meeting; and under the impulse of God's love we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and correspond to it.

It is precisely the communion in the image of the Trinity that distinguishes the person from the individual. From faith in a God who is Trinity it follows that to be myself I need the other. I'm really human, really personal, only if I relate to others. The term person denotes in fact the human being as a "face", facing towards the other, involved with others. Our life grows in humanity as we move from individual to personal character; the authentic path of humanization goes from the individual who perceives the other as a rival, to the person who recognizes him as a traveling companion.

From " like " to " amen "

The image of the body and limbs reminds us that the use of the social webit is complementary to the encounter in the flesh, which lives through the body, the heart, the eyes, the gaze, the breath of the other. If the network is used as an extension or as a waiting for such a meeting, then it does not betray itself and remains a resource for communion. If a family uses the net to be more connected, to then meet at the table and look at each other, then it is a resource. If an ecclesial community coordinates its activity through the network, to then celebrate the Eucharist together, then it is a resource. If the network is an opportunity to get closer to stories and experiences of beauty or suffering physically distant from me, to pray together and together to seek the good in the rediscovery of what unites us, then it is a resource.

So we can go from diagnosis to therapy: opening the way to dialogue, to meeting, to smile, to caress ... This is the network we want. A network not made to trap, but to free, to preserve a communion of free people. The Church itself is a network woven by the Eucharistic communion, where the union is not founded on the " likes ", but on the truth, on the " amen ", with which each adheres to the Body of Christ, welcoming others.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2019, Memory of St. Francis de Sales.




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