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Public Health Threat

In this morning’s newspaper there was an intriguing article about the threat to one’s health caused by loneliness. Amazing, yet not surprising.

Several years ago Facebook was front page news in papers around the country. The much anticipated IPO of the social media company concluded the first day with an estimated value of $105 billion. The results of this unimaginable event made Facebook the 25th largest company in the United States. The size may seem surprising for many reasons and yet 1 out of every 13 people on Planet Earth use Facebook. The exponential growth in popularity of this company has given rise to many theories and critiques.

In the May, 2008 issue of ATLANTIC, Steven Marche wrote an evocative article; Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? Marche develops the question and places it into the context of this age and culture – recalling the trend of social disintegration that has been documented since before David Riesman’s classic work, The Lonely Crowd. His research points to the age old human longing for connectedness (friendship, intimacy and love) and in the North American culture in particular, to the high value placed on independence, autonomy and self-reliance. It would seem that Facebook offers a marriage of these two longings: the illusion of intimacy along with the illusion of distance.

Stepping into our world 2000 years ago and today, Jesus speaks to these ageless longings of the human heart. The Architect, Engineer and Builder of you and me, knows each of us so very completely. The One who understands our hopes and dreams, our fears and sorrows, comes among us to lead us out of the shadows and darkness of our loneliness. How?

I believe each of us holds within a desire to see and know of God. And when I stop to wonder about my life and everything and everyone around me – looking back through the years – and become amazed at all that is and all that I am and all I yearn to do and become –I recognize it as Gift! Since childhood we have been taught how to receive a gift – with THANK YOU. Gratitude is key – it opens the door to everything.

And most important, gratitude opens the door to love. For once I know this love, in which I am held by God, in gratitude I am compelled to give it away; with family, friends, community and in service to others – my life is transformed by living in this experience of love. The entire life of Jesus, including His teaching and example along with His suffering, death and resurrection, everything points to and underscores the one single command that God has left us: Love one Another as I Have Loved You.

Facebook and any other technology of social media are tools, of which we have many. Like any other tool, their intrinsic value is dependent on how they are used. The gift of our faith is the one “tool” we have been given (in our Baptism) that opens for us a true way to realize intimacy and love as well as complete self-fulfillment. God offers us continual refreshment, forgiveness, nourishment and yes, there is something else. Once we receive these gifts we are to go out and give them away – in a deliberate choice to bring into a world so desperate for authentic intimacy and caught up in intriguing illusion.

Fr. Ronan