Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Merry Catholic

In Luke’s gospel, chapter 14, Jesus offered an important teaching about pride and vanity. Jesus said: “There once was a man who set up a Facebook account. At first, the man connected with many long-lost friends from high school. Soon after, he began to type witty replies to the various postings he saw. Then he began to post his own updates, letting everyone know what was new and important in his life. Whenever someone else commented on one of his postings, the man had a surge of delight. ‘People are noticing me!’ he thought. ‘People think I’m important!’

“As time went on, the man spent more and more time on his computer. He would post updates about everything that happened in his life, including what he had for breakfast, the current weather conditions in his town and pretty much any random thought that popped into his head, especially regarding the presidential election campaign. He then would stare at the computer screen anxiously waiting for someone to reply. One day, the man posted a photo of the baloney sandwich he prepared for lunch. Someone quickly replied with this comment: ‘Hey pal! Who cares?! Get a life!’

“The man was devastated, and walked away from his computer sadly, because he had much pride and vanity.” Then Jesus concluded his teaching by saying, ‘For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

O.K., so maybe this isn’t exactly how Jesus told the story in Luke, chapter 14. But I bet that’s how Jesus would tell the story if he were here in the flesh today.

Back then, Jesus described people who had been invited to a banquet, and immediately chose “the places of honor at the table,” because they wanted to be noticed by everyone. But Jesus explained this strategy could backfire, as a more important guest might arrive, and the host would have to tell the attention-seeker to move to the least prestigious place.

Pride and vanity have always been chronic problems for mankind. It was the case back in Jesus’ day, and it’s our situation today – only 100 times worse.

Baby boomers are known as the “Me Generation,” because those of us born between 1946 and 1964 were trained from infancy to be completely self-centered. Today, people have taken that concept to the next level, and now we have the “Look-At-Me Generation.” Narcissism has been combined with exhibitionism, in the form of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the ubiquitous “selfie.”

People are craving attention and are going to outrageous lengths to exalt themselves. Jesus clearly teaches that this attitude is wrong. The narcissism combined with exhibitionism observed on social media is rather annoying. But when you look a little deeper, it’s clear the relentless postings often are just pitiful cries for attention.

Jesus taught the importance of humility because he knows that when a person is self-absorbed and constantly in need of attention, that person will never be content. The situation is kind of a Catch-22. When we seek happiness by being self-centered and craving attention from others, we’ll never be happy. But when we stop focusing on ourselves and instead strive to follow the two great commandments – love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves – only then we will be happy.

So if you must dabble in Facebook to keep in touch with old friends, fine. But be aware it has the power to bring out the worst in people. Please don’t get caught up in the constant desire for attention. It will only make you miserable in the long run, and it will drive you further and further away from healthy relationships, both with the Lord and with other people.

Bill Dunn is a freelance writer who resides in Torrington. His most recent book is titled The Gospel According to Morty. He can be contacted via his blog at MerryCatholic.blogspot.com.