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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
Scripture Corner…

IS NETWORKING AN EXPERIENCE OF COMMUNION?

There is a trend coming up of some Catholics who are convinced that being present at the Eucharistic celebration is simply an option and not a necessity. Recently, I spoke with one of the prominent members of the Church in Tanzania, former Ambassador to USA for nine good years, as I was informed that he has stopped attending Masses. When I asked him, 'why make such a move?' He simply said that 'he still continues to attend Masses which are celebrated by the Pope Francis shown on or through television. Thus, there is no need for him to go the Church. Amazing! The value and sense of communion is being tempered. Such kind of attitude and people may tend to think that there is no need of having the Church.

It is of extreme importance to note that Christianity in its broader perspective can only be experienced within a community because Christianity, in its essence, claims that 'my relationship to God is dependent on my relationship with my brothers and sisters.' The acid test of the authenticity of our faith in God is the reality of our love for others. We cannot authentically claim to love God and be out of communion with one another, and indeed, communion is concretised in the Church, and not through TV. And of course, its experiential height is reached in the Eucharistic celebration. In other words, communion cannot be reduced to social networking or to private experience between God and me, a private tête-a-tête between God and my soul through media communication or networking or TV (even if the Pope is the one celebrating the Mass!).

The Church, as a community of God's people in communion, cannot be reduced to the ultimate social network, a sort of definitive social web, because it is not just a web of immanent relationships. And of course, this image of the social web is increasingly molding the imaginations of believers. Thus, proper and adequate catechesis as well as theological formation remain to be a necessity. In fact, this is the reason that the Archbishop of Ibadan, Gabriel Abegunrin, obliges priests themselves to be part and parcel of catechising the faithful in all levels; and not to leave this duty and responsibility to the Catechists alone. It is enough to think, for instance, of the experiment of sharing our own experience of God during Christmas or Easter via Twitter, even while in the Church (cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk8ucBlkMRo). However, this will present an ambiguity that is unresolvable if it is lived during live celebrations because there is great risk of alienation. If we share our own experience with others who are absent, we will end up neglecting what we are living with the faithful who are present. That is why at the beginning of Mass people are asked to switch off their phones so that they may participate fully in the celebration itself without any destruction. The sense of participation as taking part in a celebration that is absolutely not reducible to its psychological components or to the stimulation into which the sense of participation in video or game is transformed.

The fundamental risk that is joined to the experience of the liturgy on the web is that of a flow of magic that is able to fade away until the sense of community and ecclesial mediation that is incarnated is cancelled so as to exalt instead the role of the technology which makes the event possible. Any difference between a live concert followed online and liturgical celebration? The level of reflection that the web requires for the role of the technology that makes the virtual presence possible in a context like ours where media have been let loose in the ordinary environment in which we live, must go further. We cannot take it for granted. The magic functions of the web consist of the negation of spatial distance, of allowing to grab what is far away, to establish direct and efficacious contact with what is beyond our control, which is distant in many ways. Communion expressed and lived in and during the Eucharistic celebration is not achieved through networking as if it is magic. Even if the Pope celebrates Mass and shown to the public through television, the onlookers cannot claim to have celebrated or participated in that Mass. Thus, is an opportune moment for all the Church goers to making sure that our cybertheology is put in proper, adequate and appropriate perspective!

 


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