Upon hearing yesterday’s Gospel, I am drawn to reflect on those who do not inherit God’s Kingdom in the story—those who did not feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, or welcome the stranger. Ultimately, they did not care for the ‘least of these’ because they did not see Christ in those who were suffering. In today’s world, in which we are continually divided, we must ask ourselves where we too have failed to recognize Christ in our neighbor.
The polarity present in our current political climate makes it hard to engage with those who think differently than us, particularly on social media. But if we fail to recognize the goodness in the other are we missing an opportunity for further dialogue? And is failing to engage with those who are different from us a failing to recognize the love of Christ present within the “other?”
Ignatian spirituality tasks us with the challenge of finding God in all things. Not just finding God in the pages we follow on social media or the friends who agree with us. Yes, it can be fruitful to work and engage with like-minded people to create a more just world. But at the same time we can not forgo the more difficult task of engaging with those who think other than we do. We must consider our neighbor who thinks, looks, and acts differently than us.
I recognize the challenges present in online engagement. It is not a space to be able to listen deeply to one another, or to hear and understand where people are coming from. The platforms we engage in can largely become echo-chambers where, no matter which “side” we are on, we are unable to see what those who disagree with us are saying. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis says, “The way many platforms work often ends up favoring encounters between persons who think alike, shielding them from debate.” (45)
Love is and has always been difficult, challenging, and at times uncomfortable. This challenge of engaging online begs us to love one another, even when it’s difficult, especially when it’s difficult. We must now face these difficulties in new ways as we seek to love Christ in our neighbor who may not agree with us.
William Myers is a former Jesuit Volunteer (‘19-’20) who spent a year at the University of Detroit Mercy working in the ministry office. He is currently a student at Union Theological Seminary where he is pursuing a masters of Divinity. William is passionate about the transformative power that music can bring to our prayer and contemplation, especially when considering issues of social justice.