While social media and modern technologies have connected us together and made us “closer” to one another than in the past, they have also made us become myopic toward certain issues, as well as blinded toward a great range of growing social pathologies. Sadly, there is a constant decline in our appreciation, maturity, and formation of basic human principles and foundations, and we are not even talking about the moral realm with virtues and vices yet. While it is easy to gauge our level of “happiness” and quality of life with income, equality, and other usual sociological data and numbers, there are new and complex factors that have not been taken into account. If we look around us, there is a disturbing growth in rage, despair, depression, anxiety, drug dependency, and the likes.
For examples, there have been more school shootings in the last few years. The number is alarming and disturbing if we actually compare it to other first-world countries like us! Not only that, but there is also a rising number in suicides and young people finding ways to hurt each other through violence, drug uses, and other sad means. Many said that they do not have joy in life, giving up because they do not feel that they are cared for, their families have given up on them, or because life is too hard. Furthermore, we have a silent killer that has been sweeping the whole nation, and many are parts of this destructive trend but do like like to talk about it. I am talking about the opioid epidemic, the mass self-medication with hard drugs and substances. I have seen numerous documentaries and reports on how this silent, least talked about, and swept-under-the-carpet epidemic is killing small towns in America. In some small towns, almost half — if not, the majority — of the population is related or involved in some ways with someone who is addicted or medicate themselves on a regular basis.
Addiction has been much bigger than drugs nowadays. It involves pornography, meaningless casual sexual exchanges, objectification and sexualization of people, and other means of self-medication to remove one’s self from the desperate, traumatic, redundant, or joyless lifestyle. From the young to the elderly, there is a sense of powerlessness, afraid to live with our true God-given and human dignity, because we have been so objectified, manipulated, or forgotten. People simply give up hope because they do not feel loved and cared for, nor accepted and embraced with true acceptance. While many of our government programs and initiatives are based on numbers, reports, and typical data, these calculative means do not capture the real picture that is happening to the social fabric of our country.
While politicians and many people are trying to push for more socialistic approaches to bridge equality and ensure better social justice for all. I believe all those approaches will fail! Often times, people expect the government to become more integrative and proactive in regulating and become the enforcing arms of social justice and equality. Yet, we can see in countries like Venezuela, Viet Nam, China, many in Latin America and Africa, and the likes, the government many times become the ones that create, feed, manipulate, and prolong social injustices. Even though we all approach with good intentions; but when it comes to power, human beings are well-known for using it wrong when they have it in their hands. History has proven the failures of good intended beginnings and the corruptive breakdowns of socialistic values by governments as they desire to control and made sure that their people are depending on them instead of truly serving the people. Even though one can say that democratic socialism will work in America because we have a proper, constitutional check and balance system, but many of that is just talk since not many are willing to put efforts into making this reality works. We say that democratic socialism works in many countries in Europe, especially in the Scandinavian sector, but no one wants to bear the immense tax rate of 40-45% of their income to ensure the that the social programs are properly funded. We like to pick and choose what works best from other countries and join them together here in America to make something new and beneficial, but we have ignored the other social issues that come with the different systems in other nations. Our real problems have always been our (hopeful) expectations that the government or political initiatives will solve our social problems. It is often time sad to think that somehow America is immune or will not be affected by history and other problems like those of the past or around us now. Our problems are human problems according to its truest definition.
If we do not deal and understand our real human struggles and its disturbing trends of uncharted pathologies in the light of who we truly are, we will fail to find a proper response, only diverting and ignoring reality with false political, social, or revolutionary objectives. We are facing an identity crisis! Think about it… All these things happen because too many of us talk about other issues but do not know who we are. Our social fabric has been so torn that we have become more vocal on several political or unimportant matters but indifferent on many of the ones that really affect our people. We can be immediately shocked, angry, and stunned on social media through different expressions, but for the most parts, we do not want to deal with them in personal and effective means that will bring real changes.
We have been showing ourselves as more equal, just, caring, and compassionate society on the outside, smiling, greeting, and acknowledging people in their everyday business but ignorant and truly caring about how those who are around us are facing difficult problems. We have no problem of “getting to know” our audience, population, and people as long as it serves a beneficial service, but that just means we have become a predatory, manipulative, and objectified society that only cares about its members when they serve a purpose, but ignored the inherent problems that they are going through because they do not benefit us and our social, business, enterprise, or political models. This is the best way to describe a fake, careless, cold, heartless, and indifferent society that makes everything sounds nice on the outside but leaves its own members drowning and dying, only seem to care when it is beneficial. We have a growing set of problems that need to be dealt with, but to ignore them by simply packaging things nicely on the outside and ignoring what is rotting us deep from within will only make them worst. We have something that is destroying us deep from within and we do not like to walk about it, only focusing on making things look nice exteriorly; yet, this disease, like gangrene and cancers, crippling and eating us alive from within as we see more rising numbers of death, addiction, depression, anxiety, and the likes that make us like the “walking dead” without joy and hope.
For me, I think we are facing an ontological crisis, both on the personal and communal levels. We, as a society and individuals, have lost a sense of who we are. We try to make sense of who we are and what we want to be according to aspiration, inspiration, freedom, and liberation, but they do not suffice. We have tried to find solace in different types of pleasure, gratification, and fulfillment that leave us more addicted, dependent, unhappy, and at times empty at the end of the day. We have tried to chase after our dreams, live our passions, seeking freedom, push the envelope, seek the cutting-edge limits, yet they often times leave us empty, unfulfilled, depressed, and in need of self-medication. As we seek to legalize “soft” drugs to cope with the growing set of now-common disorders, psychological and sociological problems, many are actually not talking about the number of people turning to “hard” medications and substances to numb away the pains, void, and emptiness of life. Even though we have talked much about love, we have become the people who cannot love ourselves! We have objectified love as a casual exchange, sentimentally or emotionally satisfying at the moment, take our focus away from the mundaneness of life but do not know how to love because we hate ourselves. We often equate love with quantifiable freedom and rights but missing right in front of us the true qualities of love itself. We do not know what it truly means to love by the giving of ourselves wholly, completely, genuinely, and transparently with all of our honesty, vulnerability, and trust in the deepest sense.
We have become more defensive because our ego has become more fragile and easily upset. We have also taken the easy route of diverting the pains by being offensive, directing, or deflecting the real problems away from us. We are lost because we do not know who we are, the purpose of our existence, what we are called to be, and how we are to live our lives to the fullest. Instead of turning ourselves to the One who created us out of love to find ourselves, we have become too busy trying to define, identify, and make a name for ourselves. Instead of loving who we really are as He made us, we are too worried about the “Have it your way!” ideologies that seem to be empowering, satisfying, and freeing at first, but only brush a nice coat of paint over what is rotting deep from within because we try to deny and run away who we are!
That is why, for many people, Jesus often remains an inspiration figure that taught a way of life. He often remains someone who is similar to a revolutionary leader, guru, teacher, or life coach. He motivates and inspires people, but He is nowhere near God. He has some types of special power but He is far away from being God Himself. Many made Him into someone docile, supportive, yet helpless because they do not want to be disciples or be changed by His message. It is easier for us to keep things nice on the exterior level instead of having to preach the message of conversion and change our lives for the truth!
Yet, for us as Christians, the Lord Jesus Christ is both human and divine. Eternally begotten by the Father, exists before (human, chronological) time, He incarnated and took flesh to become one of us. He lived like us in all things except sin to show us with both words and deeds what it means to be children of God. The only begotten Son of God became one of us to teach and show us in a very real and personal way the beautiful and intimate relationship we have with God. He showed us what it means to love with His very own life, the love that is so real and selfless, even if it means to love unto death.
As Christians, we believe and profess with our faith that God so loves the world that He chose to live among us, suffered and died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven to prepare the place for us. Unlike any other human leaders, teachers, or figures who came and went, who lived and died, Jesus Christ is God who lives forever! He is the Messiah, the One who came to fulfill the Old Law and Prophets, the culmination of divine love for humanity in a real and personal way. He is the One who gave us life by the giving of His life for us, who teaches the truth by leading and lifting up our hearts where they actually belong, the One who goes before us to prepare our final destined place and will be there for us at the end of our earthly journey.
We are the resurrection people, changed by the power of His life-giving love. His life becomes our very own life and mission, our purpose and identity. When we were baptized, we are baptized into Him, died to this world as to live for Him forever! Therefore, when we run away from our Christ-centered identity, we become destructive toward ourselves and those who are around us. Our society destroys itself and its citizens because it remains objectified and manipulative, making everyone a consumer to be consumed by manmade ideologies and products. Yet, none of these things ever set us free or make us happier!
Life’s greatest consolation is not about having it all, but to know that we are not alone and are not abandoned. We find our joy when we know that we are loved into being by God, not simply living with the things that we have or want! While we still have our daily struggles, being filled with doubts and fears at times, we have personal and intimate knowledge of who we are. This ontological, personal and intimate, knowledge sets us free from the hypes, trends, empty promises, and changing matters of this world because we know who we belong to from the beginning and for eternity.
We do not have to justify, make a name, or do all these crazy things to be loved, for the act of love is not simply about doing things, it is about the honest and genuine gift of ourselves to Him and others. We can only change the world when we really choose to care and to love as He loves! Therefore, let us not lose heart but lift it up to the Lord in prayer, in worship, and in our daily walk of faith. At every Eucharistic celebration, the Church always remind us to “Lift up your heart!” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord!” This is so important for us to remember as we remind ourselves daily, especially in times of trial, to always return, open up, and lift our hearts to Him.
I will end this reflection by asking you an honest question… Please take some time to pray and reflect upon it! What is still keeping you and I back from fully living, hearts lifted, and transformed by faith? Do not be afraid to bring it to prayer, learn to calm ourselves down as to listen and speak to Him from the heart, because each prayer is an act of lifting up our hearts up to God.