In today's world, it's all about being connected.
With our computers, we can reach anyone anywhere in the world. A simple e-mail travels the globe in less than a second. With the click of a button we can access information that would previously have taken us months to research in a library. Through the cameras on our computers, we can speak face-to-face with another person in real time. What seemed impossible just a few years ago is reality today. In no other time in human history have we been as connected to one another as we are today.
Our connection through communication technology, however, is more than a convenience. It has now become a necessity. Most people go into a panic when they think they have lost their cellphone or left home without it. Because we can access email and voice messages anywhere and at anytime, we feel the need to check our cell-phones and computers constantly in case someone is trying to reach us. Our offices expect us to return messages almost instantaneously even when we are not working. If we send a text message and the other person does not answer right away, we wonder whether he or she is ignoring us or is angry with us.
Unfortunately, the technology that was supposed to make the world smaller and draw us closer together has isolated us even more. While we are more connected than ever, we still feel disconnected. Rather than spend time together, families typically go into different rooms, one to check social media, the other to play computer games and another to stream a television program. How many times at restaurants do we notice people sitting around a table together with their cell-phones in hand communicating with everyone else except the people who are around them. Sadly, though we have the ability to be in touch with anyone around the world, we are losing the ability to connect with the people who are right in front of us.
Today’s gospel is all about being connected. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Jesus wants us to connect with Him. He warns us that unless we are connected with Him, unless we remain with Him, we will be incapable of doing anything. Just as a branch has no life once it is snapped off from the trunk, so we have no life when we are disconnected with Jesus. We become as useless as a computer that cannot connect to the internet or a cell-phone that cannot connect to a satellite.
Connecting with Jesus does not require advanced technology. We do not have to be plugged into a network. Our connection with Jesus is not interrupted when the power goes out or a satellite goes down. All we have to do is quiet our minds and speak to Him in the silence of our hearts. He is always there to listen anytime of the day or night. We are always connected with Him and we always have His full attention. A simple prayer from the heart is all it takes.
Saint John tells us more about this vital connection with Jesus in today’s second reading. We know that we are connected with Him - that we remain in Him - if we keep His commandment of love. The power to love comes from Jesus. It is more than having affectionate feelings for our friends and family members. It means loving our enemies just as He did from the cross. It means forgiving those who hurt us. It means sacrificing ourselves for those who suffer. It means going out of our comfort zone to connect with those whom society has cast off. This kind of self-giving love is the connection our hearts yearn for and that so often gets drowned out in the white noise of modern technology. We can only experience it and live it when we draw our life from our connection with Jesus.
Though our modern technology can often separate and isolate us, our connection with Jesus has the power to draw us together in faith and love. Just consider what we are doing today at this Mass. We are hearing the same readings that other Christians around the world are meditating on. Christians in Syria who are experiencing persecution, Christians in Africa who are struggling with poverty, Christians in Asia who experience discrimination, Christians in South America who suffer corruption, Christians in Europe who struggle with indifference and Christians in North America who face the temptations of materialism are all joined by our common prayer. Our deepest and most real connection, however, will be in the Eucharist we share. Each of us, receiving the Body of Christ in the form of bread, will be truly connected to the Risen Jesus Himself and also to our sisters and brothers sharing in the Eucharist all over the world. Receiving the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ, connected to Jesus and to one another, though we are scattered over the whole world. No technology, no matter how advanced, can achieve that. Only God’s Spirit who lives in every heart that confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord.
We have to be careful about falling into the trap of condemning technology because of some of its negative effects. Our ability to reach out to each other over long distances and to receive news instantly does much good. However, we have to be clear about what toll these innovations take on our relationships and personal lives. We also have to examine our behavior to make sure that we are not becoming enslaved to the contraptions which are supposed to serve us.
Our ability to connect to one another through modern technology is a good thing. However, imagine if we valued our connection to Jesus as much as we value our internet connection. Imagine what the world would be like if we prayed as often as we checked our text messages or updated our status on social media. Imagine if we were as quick to reach out in love to the person standing in front of us as we are to call someone on our cell-phone. Then so much of the loneliness and isolation we feel in today’s information driven world would be relieved. Then we could really do much more good with the technology we have been blessed with.