How do we respond to news stories that we read or hear about?
Our world — even within the vastness of the internet — can be pretty small. In the world today, where a growing number of people receive their news from social media, from sites on Facebook and Twitter that they choose, we can control the voices we hear, the information that is passed onto us. That is true for both the religious and the secular news we receive.
With that in mind, we should ask ourselves if we are able to filter what we hear others say, the opinions and thoughts of others — and even our first impressions — so that we can ascertain the truth.
Are we able, even when we are surrounded by those who are trying to tell us their version of the truth, to come to the real truth, even if it is not a popularly held opinion?
Perhaps it would be good for each of us, especially as we come closer to Lent, to have an “internet examination of conscience.” The one that follows comes from Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn:
I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange Gods before me. Have I treated people, events or things as more important than God? Have I elevated the internet to a deity? Is commenting on Facebook, Twitter or blogs supplanting my prayer life?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the church or people? Have I inflicted wounds on the Body of Christ by showing disrespect, dissent or disdain? Have I mocked online the leadership of the church — whether it’s my pope, my bishop or my pastor?
Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Do I go to Mass when I should? Do I avoid work that impedes worship to God? Do I spend too much time on Sunday surfing the internet and chat rooms and forums, when I could be spending time with my family or with God?
Honor your father and your mother. Do I show my parents due respect? Do I maintain good communication with my parents? Do I criticize them to others, or online?
You shall not kill. Have I harmed another through physical, verbal or emotional means, including gossip? Have I destroyed another’s reputation online? Have I used comments to mock, disrespect, slander or attack?
You shall not commit adultery. Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and myself? Have I used the internet to visit porn sites or engage in sinful conversations about sex?
You shall not steal. Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another? Have I spent valuable time at my job on the internet when I should have been working?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Have I gossiped, spread lies or embellished stories at the expense of another? Have I posted online something I suspect may not be true?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse. Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love? Have I made my life online, and the time I spend there, more important than my life with my husband or wife?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. Am I content with my means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily? Do I surf online shopping sites, wishing I could buy things I don’t need and being jealous or resentful of others?