‘There is one God; there is also one mediator between God and mankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all’ (1 Tim 2:5). This is one of the Bible verses quoted quite often. What is the duty of a mediator? In simple terms, a mediator is one who brings estranged parties to an amicable agreement or a person who helps in the communication between two parties. In the Christian context, God and man are those two parties. Because of our weaknesses, we need a mediator on our behalf to plead our side before God. Jesus has executed his role of mediator well, to the extent of giving himself to be crucified as ransom for us. This supreme sacrifice made him the sole mediator for all eternity. Scripture assures us that we can confidently approach Jesus, who will mediate with God the Father on our behalf. ‘Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ ( Heb 4:16).
In spite of this express invitation to approach our mediator Jesus Christ at any time and at all times, in practice we do not see this happening every time. Today we are trying to investigate one of the major reasons that prevents us from accessing the most amiable mediator the world has ever seen.
To start with, what is the biggest stumbling block in our spiritual journey? Temptations, dissipation, worries of this life, drunkenness, loss of faith, negative caricaturing of the Church, lack of knowledge in basic catechism, models not worthy of emulation and the list goes on! It is true; for a person going on the wrong track there could be any number of reasons to blame. It is equally applicable to a person who ‘also ran’ but finished last. We belong to neither of these two categories. We are running on the right track and we are sure we will touch the finishing line well in time.
Yet, we often experience our energy levels dropping, and a feeling that we are not built for this race creeping in. We have our own share of reasons that prevent us from performing as we wish, and as our Lord expects, in our spiritual journey. If we analyse the true reason behind it, we will find that there are certain things, people, situations or attitudes that make us experience this unwelcome phase in our journey to perfection. It can be in the form of temptations or influences of this world. It can be the result of being placed in a particular environment where our eyes and ears are kept open to things profane most of the time. It can be the result of getting a bad person as our role model. It can be through a process of assimilation to the philosophy of religious relativism where Jesus and the way proclaimed by him are treated as one among many options.
All these are correct. But we need to go further deep. There is something that leads us to wrong people or wrong things or wrong situations or wrong attitudes. In fact it is one of the major reasons behind a lethargic spiritual life of many a Christian. With this in mind, we should try to find out where we stand and what the way forward is. In any case, we cannot lose sight of our ultimate aim. It is nothing but reaching heaven. We should reassure ourselves, as often as possible, that what we experience today in this dull season of spirituality, in this feeling of prayers getting monotonous, in this aversion to sacraments and in this general lack of faith, are all but momentary distractions. From the very beginning of the race we have fixed our eyes on the finishing line only. As for the hurdles placed by our enemy, we will cross them one by one.
When your country is going through an election process, what is the single biggest factor that influences your opinion? When the Church is passing through a difficult phase receiving brickbats everywhere, as a Christian, how do you structure your response to such situations? How does the philosophies of a world given itself to hedonism, permeate the serene environs of our families? How do many Christians start thinking that Christianity is just another religion and fundamentally all religions are the same? How do governments feed you with only those narratives that are convenient to the ruling class? How does the space for virtue in public life is fast encroached by vices of all sorts?
You need not search for the answers of each and every question. One answer will serve all these questions. It is the media that feeds us with everything they want us to know; not anything we want to know. Everything that they think will benefit them; not anything that benefits us! It is not a secret that the global media houses are owned or controlled by big corporates who have expressed their dislike for Christian values on all possible occasions. When I say the media is patently anti-christian in its content, layout and presentation, I mean not only those big media outlets. Wherever you live, the local media is also following in their big brothers’ footsteps. Satan should be a polyglot, I assume. For him language is not a barrier. This is the reason why we see the same pattern emerging in the priorities of media platforms across the globe, irrespective of the language they use. Add to it the ever increasing space, the social media occupies in the public discourse and the filth it generates that contaminates our minds. We will get the frightening picture of a river sweeping away what little is left on this planet that can be called truly Christian.
I used this imagery not without reason. We are familiar with the fight between the Woman and the Dragon described in the Book of Revelation. ‘Then from his mouth the serpent poured water like a river after the Woman, to sweep her away with the flood’ (Rev. 12:15). Our Lady had clarified to Fr Stefano Gobbi that the river mentioned here is the volley of propaganda unleashed by the devil through his minions to attack Christ and his Church on earth. Propaganda comes through the media. Satan thinks he is on a winning streak, because the media is controlled by his agents. For us laymen too, it would seem that the devil is winning at last. No, my dear friends, the final is yet to be played. What we see these days are just the preliminary rounds and as the battle hots up, watch for the final clash, the outcome of which is already decided. The winner takes all, and we will win through Christ, in Christ and with Christ.
Well, that is about a glorious future awaiting us. What about the present, that is marred by convulsions, calamities and catastrophes, where the ‘sound of sheer silence’ (1 Kings 19:12) is drowned in the cacophony of what the media says? We have to be very very careful these days. Our Lord has warned us of a time when ‘false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect’ (Mt 24:24).
We believe that we are living in those prophesied days. The biggest weapon Satan uses to lead astray even the elect is his grip on the media, both print and electronic, both traditional and modern. The liar disseminates falsities disguised as truths through these media outlets. He presents everything upside down. He derogates virtues and exalts vices. He recommends a long list of persons or philosophies that would save us, but never ever mention the name of the true and only saviour, Jesus Christ. He tells us that the purpose of life is to enjoy and in that process he obscures the eternal truth that our life on this earth is but the preparation for another life, blissful and everlasting. Leading astray in another term for refusing to accept the truth.
The reasons for not accepting the truth are three. First is that we do not know the truth. Second is that we ignore the truth. We take pride in presenting ourselves as the people to whom the truth was revealed. And we think we never ignore the truth. We have the classic example of a Roman Governor asking Jesus; “What is truth?” even while standing before the person who himself was truth. Pilate knowingly bypassed the truth as it was uncomfortable to him.
Third reason for not accepting the truth is that somebody obscures the plain truth from before our eyes. Easiest way to obscure something from our sight is to place something else between that object and our eyes. Present day media does exactly this. They place something ‘that is good for food and is a delight to the eyes, and something to be desired to make one wise’ between our eyes and Jesus, the ultimate truth. The Devil has tried this game long before and tasted success in his first attempt itself. No wonder, even today his favorite weapon remains the same. If he could deceive Eve, and through her Adam, without the help of newspapers, television, internet, email, cellphones, whatsapp, facebook or twitter, realise how dangerous a time we are living in, when the incessant flow of knowledge from these platforms attack our little brains. Indeed, it is easier for the elect to be deceived than ever.
Is there any solution to get out of this dilemma? There are two options. One is to get out of all unwanted influences coming through the media and dedicate the extra time so obtained for something good. Second option is to continue enjoying all those filth dropped at your doorsteps by the media and wait for some miracle to happen that will deliver you from their influence. I hope you got the message right. For a Christian, the second option is no option at all. If you are dreaming about a fruitful spiritual life, the first thing to do is to come out of your addiction to the media and what it serves. Look back and ask yourself. Have you come across any piece of writing in the mainstream media during the past one month that helped you in your spiritual journey? Or how many posts have you seen in social media during this period that really benefited you? If not, why should you waste your valuable time in swallowing all those worthless things?
I am not saying that we should shun the media altogether. What is needed here is discernment. We are not supposed to read all the news. We are not supposed to watch all the movies. God does not expect us to read all facebook posts and offer our comments. There is a clear distinction between what a true believer can do and what he cannot do. If something helps us to grow spiritually, then accept it. If it is not, shun it. You cannot be a servant of God and a friend of this world at the same time. Listen what James the Apostle has to tell us; ‘Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’ (Jas 4:4). Addiction to the media is a perfect sign of friendship with the world and with it we are risking the all-important friendship with God.
Media helps you to garner worldly knowledge. It is the biggest catalyst and a powerful vehicle for the knowledge explosion that we witness these days. Before wondering about the e exponential progress in the sphere of knowledge and communication that the past few decades have witnessed, it is wise to remember something written some two hundred years before Jesus. ‘Many shall be running back and forth, and evil shall increase’ (Dan 12:4). The Hebrew equivalent of ‘evil’ used in Dan 12:4 is ‘knowledge’. In fact many translations prefer ‘knowledge’ to ‘evil’. Either way, ours is a time when communication facilities are advanced, making the movement of data fast and safe and worldly knowledge is increased essentially leading to an increase in evil.
At this time, there are two options, the first one is to let oneself be swayed by the worldly knowledge served by the Media and the second is to pray for the knowledge of the Holy Spirit that comes through our only Mediator, Jesus Christ. If you belong to the ‘elect’, then select the Mediator instead of the Media. The knowledge about Jesus Christ is more valuable than any other knowledge, as affirmed by Paul. Let us also say: ‘ For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Cor 2:2).
May the Holy Spirit ignite our hearts to seek the real knowledge and shun the worldly knowledge that is another word for evil. May we be blessed with the insight to discern what the media says, and a firm resolve to restrict its use, so that our Lent be more fruitful.