AM and FM Radio, ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX, ESPN, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and all other broadcast and digital services all have something in common.
They all want us to pay attention to the programs, messages, and images they set before our eyes and ears. They want our attention because while our minds are focused on their enticing content, they can cleverly direct our attention to the products they are selling or to the ideas and opinions they are advocating.
The success these social media companies have in grabbing and holding our attention can be seen in the fact that many people are unable to be separated from the devices that connect them to the digital world. They are afraid to miss a post, a notification, a like, a message, a tweet, or a new viral sensation. Such obsession with social media and sources of entertainment can distract us from what is far more important in life.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 13:33-37), Jesus warns us, “Be watchful! Be alert!”
That warning, which comes on the First Sunday of Advent, is very appropriate as we begin the Liturgical Year of 2021.
While the words of Jesus are often seen as just telling us to be ready for the Lord’s return in glory, those words can have a more immediate message as well.
They can be warning us to be watchful and alert to the presence of the Lord right now. For Jesus Christ, who will one day return in power and glory, comes into our world in subtle ways at the present time.
The Lord comes when the scriptures are proclaimed, when Mass is celebrated, when Christians gather in prayer, when the poor and suffering are served, when time is given to silence and meditation, when family members eat and speak together, when kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are valued more than power, popularity, and wealth.
However, if we are to recognize the presence of God in our lives, we need to be watchful and alert. Perhaps the way to begin is to be more consciously aware of the media that is continually vying for our attention and distracting us from what is ultimately most important.
As Jesus tells us, “Be watchful! Be alert! ...you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.… May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”
May we not be so ensnared and distracted by social media that we miss the presence of the Lord in our lives. “Be watchful! Be alert!” Good advice for this new liturgical year of 2021.
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski