Here is a meditation that I will be giving on our next show of In Between Sundays. It started as a blog post but it ended up sounding great for a broadcast:
Recently, I wrote a few blog posts about my intention to limit my exposure to social media. I wondered, out loud and on Facebook, what would happen if I cut my friends list to 100 and really spent the time socializing with those 100 people online.
I haven’t taken any action to limit my friends on Facebook. In fact, what I thought would be a fairly outspoken response was, in fact, more of a murmur among about five friends online. I have, however, realized that at the time, I was pretty much on overload with my use of Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, Ping.fm and a whole host of other services.
In fact, I think that the proliferation of services is making social websites into a commodity. It’s almost a daunting task to try to find a Twitter client these days or a decent facebook application. What was once really fun and exclusive has turned into a commodity. Unfortunately, when things like this happen, people start getting lost in the noise, much like I did. There is so much information rushing at us that it’s really hard for us to process one site, let alone a number of them.
So, what’s to make of all this? How does this relate to young adults? That’s a great question, and I think that there is an essential truth in looking at these social websites and comparing them with our faith.
In my hometown, I have a lot of selection with regard to churches. There are 10 within a short driving distance and a great number more if I’m willing to go a bit further. Some say mass in the pre-conciliar rite, some don’t. Some have praise and worship music, some have more traditional music. At some, I know that I’ll get a long, theological homily, while at others, I know that the priest will be brief, but thoughtful.
While I have the benefit of living in the town that I grew up, I realize that others are not that fortunate. As young adults, trying to find a church that will help us grow spiritually can be hard. We may even go to church on Sunday and, despite the best efforts of the church, feel like we get lost in the noise. After attending, we may feel like there wasn’t enough done to engage us or to keep us interested. What happens is that we eventually feel like I did with the social websites—that going to church is a commodity!
While it is important to find a place where we feel like we belong, I think that we should look at ourselves to make the difference in our own churches. If I could steal a line from John F. Kennedy, I think we should be saying, “Ask not what your Church can do for you, but what you can do for your Church.”
We may feel like we get lost in the noise, but perhaps we are not working to turn down its volume by offering to get involved in various ministries. In my own church, only recently have I started seeing younger faces helping out. While that is a good step, I know that there are a number of people like myself who have a lot to offer, and need to take some time to volunteer. It is in volunteering that I really do find my faith engaged and it stops feeling like a commodity.
However easy it is to “church hop” every Sunday, I know that I need to always work to see my faith as so much more than a simple metaphor—I have to see it as a gift. That is what will keep it unique and constantly fresh. That is what will help me to continue coming back every Sunday for mass and even consider going more than once a week.
Our faith is far from a commodity. Rather, it’s unique to each person because, unlike shouting information about ourselves out into the void of Facebook, Twitter and the like, God knows everything about us, is infatuated with us and cares about us like we are the only person in the world.
I encourage you to spend some time in prayer this week. While you are there, pick up a bulliten and consider a few areas where you might be able to volunteer and turn down the noise. Then, spend some time in the presence of God, who knows you and cares for you so intimately that we dare to call Him, Father.