Do You Love Me More Than These? by Franciscan Sister Renee Mirkes

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

May 25, 2024

Catholic Ethicist Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Renée Mirkes offers a Theological reflection on John 21:15. She directs the Center for NaProEthics, the ethics division of the Saint Paul VI Institute, Omaha, NE. This reflection comes to you after a recent announcement from the Vatican that Carlo Acutis, an Italian teen who died of leukemia and is thought to be the patron saint of the internet because of his own website searching and work, is on the way to become the Catholic Church’s first millennial saint.

That’s the post-Resurrection question Jesus poses to Peter and, most pointedly, to each of you reading this.

Have you ever wondered what the “these” are? Is Jesus asking Peter (substitute your name) ‘do you love me more than other people, like more than your best friend, your parents, your work or school colleagues? Or is He asking you whether your attachment to things, like money, fame, or social media trump your love of God? Or, at least, override your attention to God, and to what He is dying to say to you?

When I heard Jesus’ probing question in today’s gospel, my first answer landed on social media. Yeah, I had to admit, I’ve got some attachment problems with my screen devices. I need to conduct some serious inventory over my use of phone and screen tools.

While I’m convinced there are tons of good things—productive, charitable, and even socially enhancing goals I’ve accomplished with my diverse algorhythmic gizmos—sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, I’m more tuned, zoomed and caught up in the worldwide web than I am to the unconditional love of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ, for me.
So let me share the social media examen I’ve posed to my conscience—trying to be as honest as I can—and invite you to wrestle with the same, or to compose your own enquiry, based on where you are with your screen time:

(1) How has my social media use impacted my relationship with God, neighbor, the Church, and the natural world?
(2) Have I done a ‘digital fast’ recently, just to purify my phone and thingamajig habits?
(3) Have I taken a break from social media long enough to pray, silently reflect, and spend time with God and with others in person?
(4) Have I really absorbed, as in taken seriously, the important insights—the very real physical, psychic and spiritual tyrannic footholds of social media on me—from the docudrama, The Social Dilemma? (By the by, said documentary is available on Netflix.)
(5) How can I consume social media intelligently, rather than be consumed by it?
(6) Do I ever imagine muted notifications beating against my body—even when I don’t have my phone on me—all the while blinded to the implications of that illusion?
(7) Am I doomed to live in a cave—like the one in Plato’s parable—seeing only online shadows rather than the truth, beauty of the goodness of the natural world, as in real life, in real time, with live friendships?
(8) Have I practiced temperance—control of my media passions—so I can experience real freedom from the embezzling effects of social media?

NB: Possible resolution: Repeat to yourself at least once a day: Do I (substitute your name) love God in all things digital AND ABOVE ALL THINGS DIGITAL?

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