This Sunday’s liturgy takes us to the moment when our Lord ascends to heaven forty days after Easter. The disciples had been instructed to remain in Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit and preach the good news to every creature. Centuries later, the Synod Fathers of the Second Vatican Council invited the faithful to use social media to preach the Christian faith. As a continuation of the call to use social media in the preaching of the Gospel, this Sunday the Church celebrates the 53rd World Communications Day. In his message for World Communications Day 2019, His Holiness Pope Francis invites us to reflect on the benefits and challenges of using social networks.
In the first reading, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles states that Jesus appeared to his disciples “during forty days and [spoke to them] about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). In his Gospel, St. Luke describes the moment when Jesus tells his disciples to remain in the city until they receive the power from on high. After this, he blessed them and went up into the heavens. Subsequently, the disciples returned to Jerusalem where they remained in prayer awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The disciples had been sent "to the world to proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Therefore, after receiving the effusion of the Holy Spirit they carried out Jesus’ command in a mission that has been continued over almost two thousand years. Some decades ago, the Synod Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Decree Inter Mirifica urged the people of God to use social media at the service of the preaching of the Word. Likewise, the Synod Fathers were aware of both the benefits and risks of its use. "The Church recognizes that these media, if properly utilized, can be of great service to mankind, since they greatly contribute to men's entertainment and instruction as well as to the spread and support of the Kingdom of God. The Church recognizes, too, that men can employ these media contrary to the plan of the Creator and to their own loss. Indeed, the Church experiences maternal grief at the harm all too often done to society by their evil use"(IM, 2).
This Sunday our Church celebrates the 53rd World Day of Communications with the theme, "We are members of one another (Eph 4,25). From social network communities to the human community." In his message on the occasion of the 53rd World Communications Day, Pope Francis echoes the words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council with an invitation to reflect "on the foundation and importance of our being-in-relationship; and to rediscover, in the vastness of the challenges of the current communicative context, the desire of the man who does not want to remain in his own solitude." His message "underlines the importance of restoring to communication a broad perspective, based on the person; and emphasizes the value of interaction, always understood as dialogue and opportunity to meet others.” Also, the message echoes the words of the Synod Fathers of the Second Vatican Council with an invitation to reflect “on the current state and nature of relationships on the Internet, starting from the idea of community as a network between people in their wholeness.”
As we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord and the call to every Christian to preach His word, it is pertinent to remember the words of the Synod Fathers who, in the Second Vatican Council, saw the importance of preaching the word through the use of social media, considering both its advantages and its risks and to meditate on the message that our Holy Father offered us on the occasion of the World Communications Day.