Image: Telecommunications satellite dish, Inuvik
I was chatting with the former Bishop of my diocese about “the way things used to be”. One of the areas that has changed drastically over the last generation is the ability to communicate. In former times communication between communities relied on radio and of these there were very few. Each missionary outpost had one and once each day at a designated hour all of the missionaries were contacted by the home office to check-in, see how everyone was doing and to share the news of the day. Often such contact was interrupted and made difficult by power outages, extreme weather and even distance, as the radio message sometimes had to hopscotch from one outpost to the next to cover the vast territory.
Today things are much easier as everyone has a cell phone, internet, and television, even in the most isolated communities. Over the past year we have come to rely a great deal on Zoom and other teleconference technology. But, as good as that has been, no technology will every replace the experience of sitting in a room, face to face, and having a real conversation as opposed to a virtual one. This allows us to cut through the static and to speak plainly and openly with one another.
In today’s first reading from the letter to the Hebrews we hear about God’s communication and how it also has changed over the generations. At first, we are told, “God spoke through many various ways including the prophets”. In time, however, God realized that there was no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. To that end, God sent his Son into the world to share the Good News directly with us. Without a need for an intercessor, God’s word came straight from God’s mouth to our ear. When it came to communicating God’s Word, even the great preacher John the Baptist was, according to his own words, “not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals.” With the mission of Jesus, a new era of communication with God had come upon the world.
The psalm for today speaks of God coming and cutting through the cloud and darkness. This is what good communication does. It dispels doubt and confusion. It unites people, as falsehoods and misinformation are unmasked for what they are. It is unfortunate that as the technology for communication has improved the art of good communication has seemed to diminish. The expectation of truth in our conversations can no longer be presumed and everything must be scrutinized to determine what is true and what is not.
The invitation for us is to reflect on the meaning of our words. When we speak, whether we use our voice or are writing our thoughts on Facebook or some other medium, do we use our God given words to convey truth, to lift up and to dispel darkness. Or, do we muddy the waters, tear apart, and add to the darkness in the world? As Jesus invites his new disciples to, “come and follow him”, are we ready to learn from the master what it means to share the Good News to a world waiting on the line.