In the 5th Sunday of Easter’s Gospel this year, Jesus gives his disciples a final commandment during the Last Supper: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should also love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) This isn’t just a command from Jesus to the Apostles two thousand years ago; rather his commandment applies to us today. How can this happen in our lives in 2016?
In the age of the Internet, people like to post and share articles on social media sites. During the past year, we’ve seen articles shared by opposing political parties condemning those who disagree with their philosophies. Anybody who disagrees or doesn’t understand is an “idiot” or a “hopeless moron.” Unfortunately, I believe that this kind of negative dialogue has also pervaded the social media dialogue about the Catholic Church and Her beliefs. I see articles that, while promoting the truth, are not doing so in a loving manner. While it is important to stand for the truth, this can be done in a loving manner that doesn’t isolate those who do not understand the Catholic Church’s teachings.
When Cardinal Wuerl visited the Catholic Student Center this past week, I posed this question to him. He was talking about the Spiritual Work of Mercy of Admonishing the Sinner. I asked him what he thought about these kinds of articles being shared on social media. He affirmed what I was thinking and said that while it is important to stand for what the Catholic Church teaches and help others recognize their shortcomings, there is a way to do so that is loving and nonjudgmental. The Cardinal stressed how an encounter with Jesus Christ is the only way that people’s hearts will turn and be opened up to the love of God. For us, that means loving one another as Christ has loved us. This is the only way to help others recognize their dignity and worth in the eyes of God. Nobody is going to understand the Catholic Church and her teachings unless they first encounter Jesus Christ.
Shoving doctrine down somebody’s throat via an angsty article on the Internet is not the way to go about helping hearts turn towards God. While we do need to stand up for the truth – and that might make some people uncomfortable – the most loving and effective way to do this is through personal encounters with others. Nobody was ever converted via Facebook article; rather it is through love that hearts are converted and saints come to be. Jesus spoke the sometimes-uncomfortable truth, but he never called those who disagreed “senseless morons.” Instead, he continued to show them love and mercy. Before you click share on a post, ask yourself if that is the best way to show love for others. Jesus said it himself; the characteristic that Christians will be recognized for is our love.