Proclaiming the Gospel to the e-generation

BY HIS EXCELLENCY, BISHOP MYLO HUBERT VERGARA, D.D.

When Jesus commissioned His disciples, His had a demanding directive: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)) In our contemporary time, one very significant question to ask is:  How do we proclaim the gospel to the electronic generation or the so-called e-generation in our midst?

Never before have we witnessed the fast phase of scientific and technological advancement unfolding before our very eyes. Before, to have a cellular phone was a luxury. Now we no longer talk of having a mobile phone. The questions we ask are: what is the latest model of your Nokia, Samsung, Sony Erickson, Motorola or I-Phone? What are its features?  Does it have a big phonebook memory, a megapixel camera, a multimedia system, or a wi-fi capability?

I was born in the age of typewriters.  When I was in college and when I entered the seminary, we still typed our reports on manual typewriters. Now we have desktop and laptop computers that not only produce reports, but also have internet capability to give you any public information by simply pressing some characters on the keyboard or by clicking the mouse pointer.  Not only that, you can talk to anyone in the world via Skype, Yahoo or MSN messenger. One time, I went to a parish in a province located in the northern part of the Philippines. The parish priest toured me outside and inside the premises of his rectory. He led me to his room and showed me a computer security camera system that monitored all movements in the church premises.  I thought that was something ordinary.  But then, he told me that this security system is broadcast live on the website with security codes.  This means that when he is out of his parish, out of town or even out of the country, he can monitor what happens to his parish in live camera and can communicate to his secretary or custodian 24 hours a day. Isn’t that terrific, if not really fantastic!?

But amidst these electronic advancements, we also feel sad, because cel-phones and computers have been occasions to sin and have catered to man’s sexual perversions.  Pornography has been more rampant which can be accessed accidentally by children who can use the computer.  Internet has been widely used not only for cybersex but also for child prostitution. Cellular phones with multi-media fluidly share pornographic pictures and videos.  Text messages have gone green to greener with obscenity that is very scandalous.  And, of course, if your cel-phone is 3G capable, you can have private sexual encounters with a partner, visually live with audible sound effects.

With all these, we can sweepingly say, the e-generation has gone from bad to worse, even evil.  We can easily judge that science and technology should be condemned; that internet and multimedia are the tools of the devil that will burn our souls to hell.  We might hastily campaign that the only solution is to get rid of our cel-phones and computers in order to protect ourselves from Satan so that God will always be center of our lives.

But is this really our solution to the consequential problems brought about by the developments of the e-generation?  Pope John Paul II boldly expressed: “Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank “among the marvelous things” – inter mirifica – which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of his eternal Kingdom.“ (The Rapid Development #14)  And Pope Benedict XVI highlights this insight in his most recent message during World’s Communications Day when he said: “The new media – telecommunications and internet in particular – are changing the very face of communication; perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to reshape it, to make more visible…the essential and indispensable elements of the truth about the human person.” (Message on 42nd World’s Communications Day, #. 2, 2008)

These realizations simply tell us that we cannot shut our eyes to what can be used for a better proclamation of the Gospel.  While aware of the ill-consequences of the irresponsible use of advanced developments in social communications, we must acknowledge the advantages they contribute to the world and, even to the mission of the Church.

Some months ago, I visited a Jesuit friend whom I worked with in a university parish where I was formerly assigned as pastor before I became a bishop.  He was assigned to me by the Jesuit Community when I requested for a full-time priest-chaplain for the university students.  He still is the chaplain of that university. In my encounter with him, I was so happy when he shared and showed me how he has ministered to the students effectively using the internet.  He has a website for the activities of the chaplaincy as well as a blog for students to dialogue with him.  He has even posted his homilies and multimedia clips of the spiritual and pastoral activities of the different catholic student organizations within the university campus to their website.  He has also included picture clips of the social service outreach activities of the students in some far flung provinces of our country.  I was so happy when I saw this and realized how the youth is not only evangelized but also becoming evangelizers.

Our task to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the e-generation is truly challenging.  Let us ask the Holy Spirit to aid and guide us in fulfilling our mission.

Source: “A Shepherd’s Staff” (Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Cycle B), pp. 53-55, Copyright 2008 Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, MA, SThD

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