Technology is everywhere these days. It has become such an integral part of our daily experience. For some of us, technology has become a phenomenon that shapes almost every waking minute of our day. Because some of these changes have occurred almost overnight, the way we go about our daily lives today could not have even been possible in recent memory.
One of the most dramatic ways that technology has changed is in the way we communicate with one another. We now can be in almost instant contact with just about everybody and anybody throughout the world. Sadly, we know that there are downsides to nearly everything we create. And what started out as an opportunity for people everywhere to understand one another a little bit more, and appreciate people with differing points of views, has morphed into something much different.
While a good number of people do indeed use technology to connect with others and as an opportunity to show compassion and understanding and care and concern — too many of us use the latest technology to do precisely the opposite. What had so much promise in the beginning, now seems to be fraught with dangers and temptations which can sometimes bring out the worst in us.
Sometimes it takes the form of bullying . Sometimes it takes the form of mocking or unfairly criticizing. Sometimes it takes the form of every ugly thought in someone’s head being spewed out without any thought or sense of decency — often anonymously. Sometimes it takes the form of overt bigotry and prejudice.
What started out as an incredible opportunity to love, has devolved, for some of us, into an opportunity to hate. Much of what we see expressed on the internet and other related technologies can’t be called anything but hate. And the fact that many of us would never see it that way, makes it even more insidious and more dangerous, both for ourselves spiritually and in the harmful concrete consequences to others that often come about.
So it is easy to hear parables in Sacred Scripture such as the Pharisee and the Samaritan woman and imagine Jesus telling us, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” After all, we all want the good things God offers. We all want God to treat us kindly and gently and compassionately. Yet, to read the story only in that way is, in a sense, taking the easy way out. You see, so often we resemble the Pharisee in the story more than we resemble the humble, loving, caring, contrite woman.
How many times do we jump at the chance to unfairly criticize rather than find something positive or helpful to say? How often do we mock rather than build up and affirm? How often do we have express negative attitudes toward those who are different from us? How often do we gossip — spreading things that should remain private? How often do feel that everyone else is the problem, not us?
Scripture drives home the point that there is only one measure in the life of the Christian, one measure in our lives as disciples of Jesus, one measure as human beings — and it is love. Love is the measure. If we do not have love, we have nothing — to paraphrase St. Paul. We can be smart. We can achieve much. We can follow the law. We can have power and influence. But if we are not loving people, if we aren’t being kind and merciful and generous and compassionate — then none of that other stuff matters. Love is the only test.
The woman in the story passed the test with flying colors. The Pharisee ... well, not so much. The question is — which are we?