Friday, April 05, 2013

Evangelizing Presence in the Online World


Pedro Calungsod’s sainthood highlighted the fact that Filipinos are capable of producing a saint in just 150 years as a newly evangelized Catholic nation. But what is more is that his canonization made us aware, too, that we are capable in spreading the good news to practically everyone.

Truth to tell, days before his canonization, I have never seen the cyberspace filled with so much information about a particular saint. People talked about him in their blogs. Facebook users mentioned them in their status updates. YouTube has been flooded with informational and music videos about his heroic sanctity. And on the day of his canonization, he was trending trended in Twitter.

Like the Resurrection narratives of Jesus, that good news on his canonization was not just some petty piece of information we could keep to ourselves. It felt a deep obligation for many of us to join the bandwagon in spreading the news of his sanctity to as many people we can reach.

I note that the first Christian community had to contend with the problem of how to bring the Gospel to people.However, the problem remains. How do we bring Jesus to people?

We have the advantage over our Christian ancestors in so far as we know where to reach them: in the digital continent.    

Evangelization

I know of Salesians who utilize their social media accounts to extend their pulpits in the online world. A priest sends a gist of the Sunday Gospel via SMS to his phonebook contacts; another one writes his reflection of the Sunday liturgy in his blog.

Some young clerics I know share their reflections online through their blogs or even in their Facebook walls.

A bishop I met last year revealed to me that he records lectio divina and sends a copy of it to his contacts via e-mail.

Young people, who have become experts in navigating the cyberspace, can surely be of help in getting across the Christian message. They can do this by using particularly the social media, in sharing their faith to others.

The transmission of faith to one’s Facebook contacts does not have to be conveyed in words. Others do it by sharing the stunning photos they took in their walls coupled with an inspirational message. Some share their favorite Christian music videos or some touching lines in an inspiring movie they last saw.

Some technically gifted individuals who are enriched by their faith, bring evangelization to another dimension by designing video games and handheld gadget applications that make the end users not just simply entertained but spiritually high.

Those who maintain online journals can surely talk about their faith. I am fascinated reading blog entries of people who reflect on how God has intervened in their lives. Those who talk about the  blessings they received, and even the difficulties they encounter.

Here lies one advantage in doing evangelization in the social media not because of the possibility of feedback, but also of the immediacy of it. Christians who are in doubt may be enlightened. And those who may have gone advance in their spiritual journey could help guide those who seem to lag behind.

My experience of maintaining a blog for more than five years now has led me to converse with people of various cultures and faith, having the same consciousness about the presence of a Designer in the scheme of things.


Participate

Let's face it. The cyberspace may offer us a lot of advantages, but it has also got tons of trash in it; it offers a wealth of information that may poison our minds and corrupt our values.

Seeing this reality, the Church, although taking a positive and sympathetic approach to it, asks us to be critical in evaluating its impact on the human culture (Aetatis Novae, 12).
Pope Benedict XVI, in his 43rd world communications day message, challenged everyone to evangelize this digital continent on which people today spend so much of their lives.  

But how do we take advantage of the social media in aid of our effort to evangelize?

To evangelize is to proclaim Christ not merely by word, but by the testimony of our lives.

Simply put, if our words and actions lead others to know, appreciate and fall deeply in love with Jesus, we contribute to this task of bringing people closer to the Father. Hopefully, being aware of our Christian identity leads us to a more virtuous use of the social media.

If we lead a life worth emulating in the cyberspace, then, we can positively influence the lives of others.

If this is so, then, we don’t have to wait for another canonization of a Filipino saint to fill the cyberspace with materials that inspire others to become saints, for our life is in itself a beautiful evangelizing message in the online world.