Homily: Genuine Human Encounter in Our Digital World
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
This year’s Social Justice Statement is very relevant – for all of us (the young people and the more senior among us). The title is “Making it Real – Genuine Human Encounter in Our Digital World”. It prompts us to look at the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly” aspects of our digital environment. Pope Francis himself encourages us “boldly become citizens of the digital world”. In our Bishops’ Social Justice Statement we are invited to reflect on how the internet has changed the way we communicate, work, learn and do business and how we can contribute towards a more just and loving digital world.
While our digital world enables us to be more connected than ever before, sadly it can be a place of manipulation, exploitation and violence. Sadly, as an example, we read stories of youth suicides resulting from cyber bullying.
We had a puzzling parable today from Luke’s Gospel. How are we to decipher its meaning? To do so, we need to understand something of the context of the ancient world. In Jesus’ time, a note about a LOAN indicated the amount that was to be returned – not the amount borrowed. The bill included the interest - that extra amount was for the steward. So we can say, in Jesus’ story when the steward decreases the amount owing, he is effectively giving up his own share of the money owing (25% in one case, 50% in another). The rich man will still receive what is his due in full. Even though, at first, it may seem as if Jesus is encouraging dishonesty - he is, in fact, stressing the right use of money. This is a favourite theme of Luke; he is the only evangelist who tells this story. It also fits in well with the theme of this year’s Social Justice Statement on appropriate use of digital technology. Let me say a few words about the Statement.
At a time of unprecedented change, the Aust. Human Rights Commission is investigating how we can harness these developments in digital technology for good and protect our human rights and freedoms. One real problem is that information taken from digital data is used for marketing purposes without consultation and consent. Cyber-bullying is another way in which digital technology has scant regard for human dignity. Research shows that more than 20% of Australians aged under 18 have experienced online bullying. This is sometimes so extreme that it drives victims to suicide.
Parents may not know that our schools have programmes to help our students enjoy the benefits of this digital age; at the same time, they are restricted from access to the dangerous features of the digital world we live in.
While we try to keep in touch with developments in our world, at the same time, as Christians we need to look at our priorities. In the struggle to keep food on the table and to just “make ends meet” hopefully, with a little to spare for some travel time with the kids during the term vacation, families find they are living busy lives.
When we link today’s Gospel with the strong passage from the prophet Amos in our 1st reading we are given a strong warning that we cannot serve both God and earthly riches. If God is our point of reference, we will find that we will use whatever ‘wealth’ we may have as a gift to be shared with others – especially with family and those most in need.
As we participate in the Eucharist, we pray that we will always be thankful that we live in this land of plenty and that we will be good stewards of the resources that we have earned through our hard work. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
*24th Sunday Ordinary Time