In recent days, a good friend told me to watch the “Nosedive” episode of the Black Mirror series on Netflix. And, to be honest with you, it really disturbed me because it artistically portrays so well what is going on in our society right now. As a matter of fact, China is actually enacting a type of government-run “social credit” system where people are being judged, given, and get points deducted for their social behaviors and interactions. This total number dictates how “reliable” or worthy you are as citizens, and of course, holds a lot of influences on decisions that are job, social, and government-related decisions. People get judged and deemed as worthy or unreliable by their scores, which is heavily influenced by government standards. There have been numerous cases of journalists or activists who are now isolated, rejected, and deemed unworthy by this system because they spoke out against the atrocities, corruptions, and wrongdoings of the government and influential figures. These people basically cannot find any real, substantial, or better-paying jobs in the country because of their low scores and red flags by the system. Sadly, some other countries are really interested in following a similar system as well!
Anyway, let go back to this particular episode, which portrays a young woman who tries so hard to gain more popularity, recognition, and influence by increasing her points on the common social platform. She coaches herself to always be on her best behaviors, post and say things that would allow other people to give her higher ratings. She worries constantly about what to do or say because she is scared of getting disapprovals. In this made-up society, many doors open if one is a 4-star or above person; and of course, many exclusive privileges and perks if one is in the 4.5-or-above circle. People judge, frown, avoid, and ignore people who have low scores, they cannot get into certain places or attain certain things because they are deemed as being unreliable or questionable in character. Hence, people put on fake smiles, hang out, or try to get higher-ranking people to upvote and raise their score. Hence, the seems to be perfect society is nothing more than a shell of self-serving and fake people because they only care to like others or present themselves in certain ways to be liked, accepted, and upvoted. No one really speaks their mind because everyone wants to be favored and accepted, but no one is really happy and themselves because they cannot be genuine in an “expected to be good” and “normal” society.
Perhaps we will say that what is portrayed is ridiculous and dramatic, but the message is very relatable and relevant to what is going on in our society today. We have bought into false tolerance and its game of political correctness and fake niceties. We present ourselves in certain ways to attain likeability, popularity, influentiality, and recognition. Yet, too many of us, especially our young people are scared of being themselves, to trust in God, and to live out their true identity, mission, and purpose in Him. It is so easy to only worry about ourselves instead of being proud, courageous, humble, and genuine to live out what we are called to be as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, disciples of Christ Jesus, and instruments of the Holy Spirit. It does take a lot of trusts to go beyond what society expects and demands of us in order to be who we really are called to be in the life of faith, to find deeper meaning and purpose in life than what society wants of us, especially to be contentful and joyful with our lives and what we have.
To be honest, there are days in my life as a priest that I feel like St. Peter in Luke 5:1-11. He and his colleagues were tired after working all night without catching any fish. He was about to call it a day, wrapping things up and go rest. However, the Lord Jesus Christ asked him to cast the nets into the deep water again. He obeyed and caught a ridiculous amount of fish. Nevertheless, teaching them how to catch fish was not the Lord’s focus. He wanted to test their faith and invited them to be fishers of men, ones who will capture and captivate the people for the Kingdom of God with the truth. The Lord taught them obedience, perseverance, and trust as they first have to learn to depend on Him and His words. In this one particular episode, He reminded them that it was not their power or skill that got them the immense result, but it was in following the Lord‘s command that they got a miraculous catch.
I have to admit that there are days in my life as a priest that I often feel tired and helpless at the immensity of works to be done. Sometimes I lose my zeal and energy because of the lack of response from parishioners. Many people want a lot from the Church, just like St. Peter and his colleagues who naturally expected to catch some fish as fishermen. They went out with an expectation to succeed from those who were in the village or at the local market, too! It is also easy for us to expect a lot from the Church to give us what we want. We often see people who only come to the Church when they need the sacraments or when there is a demand. Sadly, but true, we are slowly making the Church into a marketplace (among many other choices) since there is no longer a deeper sense of belonging or intimate connection with our family of faith.
I have heard many people expressed their desires and concerns about how they want things to be done or changed in the Church. However, when I ask for volunteers and commitment, most of the requests are answered with silence. Only the same few people end up carrying the burden of many. They often get tired and burnt out because they have been asked over and over again for help. It causes a dilemma because the pool of volunteers is limited: the supply level is nothing in comparison to the demands. I often come to the Lord Jesus like St. Peter: “Lord, I have worked all night and day. I am trying my best, and it is tiring. However, obeying your will, I will continue to cast the nets into the deep. Please help and send me good collaborators, O Lord, because I cannot do it alone!” It is not fun to have your hands tied and feel helpless in front of the mountain of responsibilities and demands. It is also humbling to see the hunger and thirst for the truth from the people (implicitly calling out to God), yet not enough collaborators to help serve the Kingdom.
I believe that the Lord first asks me to trust in Him because it is not simply my works. They are His works, and He will bring them into completion according to His own time. I have to be humble enough in doing my best and trust that He is in control. For sure, the demands challenge me to also go out of my typical routine, standard, and comfort zone to cast into the deep in order to find new and creative ways to embrace the challenges. It is not easy and one loses heart at times, too! Nevertheless, these trials soberly teach me to be honest in accepting my limitations and saying “no” when “no” needs to be said.
I have to be honest, many times to say that I cannot do what is asked because I am also a human. The acceptance of my limitation often has to come with the invitation for people to reflect that they are, can, and need to be a part of the change as well. I truly believe that we will be courageous in helping each other if we look at the Church as our family.
If we simply look at everything on a consumeristic level, then the Church will definitely fail. She will die out because there will be many other attractive options and false ideologies that offer easier alternatives. She will die out because we simply come to get what we want and leave, but we really have no connection to help build and make her better. There is no investment of time because there is no personal commitment and intimate connection. Hence, this is the normal and real challenge for the Church today. How are we responding to it?
Just like the Lord is challenging me to listen to Him and continue my best to cast into the deep, He is also asking you to look deep within yourselves to find the intimate and personal connection with the Church. Look back on how joyful we were as children coming to Church every weekend. Remember the joy of our First Communion and Confirmation, too. Why have we lost them? Maybe we have been too busy — maybe we have been too preoccupied with many secondary things — maybe we have lost our commitment. Whatever might be the case, I pray that we might re-find our original joy and first love that we had as children.
I pray that we become the Church, for we are the Church. We have to be the Church, else the Church will end up being empty buildings and facades. She is not a museum but our Mother who nourishes us with the living words of God. Please do not give up on the Church, or simply demand that other people do our jobs. We are the Church – we are one family – we are the Mystical Body of Christ – we are brothers and sisters. Please do not give up on the Church but help us build her up with true joy, faith, hope, and love.
Let us cast into the deep!