We are surrounded by noise. Much of that noise is of our own choosing and making. Thanks to smartphones, we are plugged into constant chatter and conversation. We are so use to it that we instinctively grab our phones, turn on the television, or open the laptop when we realize things have fallen silent. It’s an impulse that tells us we must be plugged into the know and we must comment on every news article or post. It’s a disordered fear of missing out on something and needing to share our opinion on everything. It is driven by the enemy of our souls, not the Lord. It is a diabolical lie that wants to pull us away from deep communion with the Lord through gossip, pride, division, distraction, and constant noise.
I have never been a big fan of Twitter, which is now known as X. When I was interning at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC in the winter of 2009, we were supposed to be involved in using social media platforms to share articles and blogs written by the policy analysts. I had been a Facebook user for a little while, but Twitter always struck me as being more like a cacophonous echo chamber where everyone simply yells at one another in a limited amount of characters. Ever since then, I’ve used it off and on, but it has always been short lived.
I will occasionally look on X for news articles, but during the times that I have scrolled through posts related to Catholic news, I find myself robbed of peace. I deleted my Facebook account three years ago and do not miss it. As I have looked through news and posts on X in recent days, a thought came to me that I have not considered enough in prayer. How much of what I’m reading is actually gossip? How often are we sinning in social media under the guise of communication?
Social media and constant communication are socially acceptable uses of our time. In fact, there are countless organizations who are doing their level best to make sure we are completely addicted to using social media and news platforms. Everyone knows algorithms are designed in such a way to keep us scrolling endlessly for hours. They are meant to create outrage with in us, so that we will jump onto the latest bandwagon.
What’s distressing about Catholic social media is that it is truly vicious when we are supposed to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We should look different from those who do not know Christ, but in some ways, we look worse. Regardless of my own struggles with the extremely bureaucratic hierarchy of our day and the wounds I carry from said hierarchy, the way we are responding in social media is downright sinful and scandalous. This is on all sides of the ideological spectrum.
The Lord opened my eyes to this reality as I tried to make sense out of the recent news about Cardinal Burke that was very confusing when it first came out earlier this week. There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. First, I was appalled by both sides in their reporting and I was praying that things being said were not true. Second, the Lord pricked my conscience by asking me whether or not I truly need to know about these things? Do we really need to know the ins and outs of everything going on in the Church and the infighting?
The answer is a resounding no. Staying constantly plugged in and watching the dysfunction robs us of peace, time, and focus on the lives in front of us. I cannot fix what is happening in the higher echelons of the Church. I can’t even fix the dysfunction in my own diocese. My focus is meant to be on helping my family grow in holiness by first seeking to grow in holiness myself. Part of growing in holiness is shutting off and pruning those things that do not help me grow.
Can we honestly say spending hours on social media discussing the scandals within the Church is helping any of us grow in holiness? Can we truly enter deeply into the Advent season and prepare our hearts and souls to receive Our Newborn King if we are constantly filled with anger, vengeance, and a mind that is distracted by countless things outside of our control? The evil one and his minions want us to stay distracted and angry. They want to rob us of peace and joy.
Division is always a sign of the enemy and one of the driving forces of division is gossip. Most of us have had relationships in our lives or our reputation ruined at one time or another due to the gossip of others. Why do we need to comment and gossip about every thing that happens within the Church? Why do we spend countless hours doing so? Do we consider how we look to the rest of the world?
Our Lord at the Last Supper in John 13:34-35 says the following to each one of us:
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Gossip is the antithesis of love. It is a violation of the fifth commandment thou shalt not kill. We can very much kill reputations. We can also kill the budding faith in other people’s hearts when they see how vicious we are towards one another on public platforms.
This Advent we should ask the Lord to show us whether or not our constant plugging into social media and the 24-hour news cycle is drawing us closer to Him or tearing us away from Him. Gossip does not have to be done in person. It is easily done behind a screen. In fact, it’s much easier to say horrific things about others, including our Holy Father or whichever prelates we do not like because we have reduced our Faith to ideology and politicking rather than constant communion with the Most Holy Trinity.
If you are finding yourself unable to log off in order to wait in silence and deeper prayer for Christ at Christmas and at the end of time, then it’s time to beg the Lord to be freed from this addiction and to be converted away from gossip and the need to know things that are not ultimately our business. I know I need deeper conversion in this area. Instead spend time praying with this quote from St. Maximus the Confessor:
“Do not listen to gossip at your neighbor’s expense, and do not spend time talking with those who love to find fault in others, otherwise you will fall away from the love of God and find yourself alienated from the eternal life.” St. Maximus the Confessor
Gossip is an easy sin to fall into. I have fallen into more times than I can count. All of us are deeply flawed and sinful. When we come to truly see our weaknesses, we begin to realize that we have no right to gossip or focus on the faults of others.
The path to changing the corruption in the Church is to become saints ourselves. It is painful to long for holy leaders and to see what appears to be a short supply. Instead of focusing on where we are being betrayed, rejected, or abandoned, we need to seek to see where we are falling short in our own lives and ask the Lord to heal the wounds we do carry.
Advent is the perfect time to shut off the noise, stop focusing on everyone else’s sins, and fall on our knees begging the Lord to make us holy. The Lord longs to be with us, but He will not force us to put the phone down and close the computer. We have to decide that we love him more than our own opinion and walk away from the noise towards Him.