CONNECTED TO “THE VINE” USING SOCIAL MEDIA
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
“Are you connected?” This is a routine question that youths nowadays ask when they want to know if you are online or not. The gadgets that the “millennials” are using now make them “connected” to the world but there is a risk to be disconnected with the people next to them. Paraphrasing one song, it looks like this, “They are near yet so far”. The image of Jesus as the True Vine in this Fifth Sunday of Easter is a good reminder for us that our connection with each other is through Jesus himself. St. Paul in his teaching emphasizes many times that Jesus is the head and we are his body. In Chapter 15 of John, John describes Jesus as the Vine and the disciples his branches. Both Paul and John share the idea that we can bear fruit or be useful only when we are connected to Jesus, our head and our Vine.
One of the powerful tools to connect people to “the Vine” nowadays is through Social Media. Social media is both an instrument of evangelization and a world that needs to be inhabited with maturity and sense of responsibility by all of us. This month is the third anniversary year of the creation of the website of the Xaverian Missionaries in Sierra Leone and the facebook page of the Xaverians. For us, Xaverian Missionaries in Sierra Leone, one of the peripheries that need the light of the Gospel is the world of the Mass and Social Media. As a regional community we are committed to using this way to proclaim the Truth and to bring people together, not only in friendship, but also in promoting interreligious dialogue, Justice and Peace, Catechesis, etc.
It is true that Social media is an instrument to preach the Good News to a wider audience (vast audience) but the gospel is more than information or knowledge to be shared: the Gospel must be incarnated by a missionary. As what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “you are a letter of Christ…written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on the tablets of human hearts” (2Cor. 3:3-4).
Next week, I am going to baptize 20 catechumens in one village. All of them are illiterate. All of them don’t have facebook accounts nor have the chance to open our website. Yet in their simplicity I can see their connectedness to Jesus. They might not be able to memorize the seven sacraments nor the ten commandments. They might have a struggle to make the sign of the cross. They might mispronounce their prayers. But I see their eagerness to remain connected to the true vine. I see their devotedness when they join the prayer of the community.
Social media is good but it cannot take the place of experience of God with the person next to you. We can be on-line missionaries but importantly we are to be “on-line and offline” missionaries. Let us approach our people through basic human relationships. Our smile, laughter, jokes, even our cries, should connect us to the lives of the “off-line” people.
During these three years, while administering the website, I discovered that we only bear fruit when we become one with God and with one another. Let us be connected to one another by using the Social Media and most of all by our daily face to face encounter with our people.