Our technological achievements are not evil, as some extremists say they are. Pope Pius XII, back in the mid-1950s, when I was in seminary, said that modern technology is a tool of the Spirit of God that had the potential to bring the peoples of the world together in mutual respect and love as never before. Well, that potential still exists; it’s not the machines and the technology that get in the way, it’s we humans.
Modern marvels, from iPhones to supersonic jets, deliver, of course, convenience, pleasure, comfort; but inner peace and deep down joy they cannot possibly give us. No machine, however sophisticated it may be, can ever bring two hearts together. Nothing that is not spiritual (and I don’t mean only religious) can bring whole peoples together. No house, however luxurious, can unite a family or strengthen a marriage.
What Jesus shared with us was his awareness that we can reach unity and lasting peace only when they are based on an active, intentional attachment to the God who lives within each of us – only when we open our minds and hearts to God’s wisdom and God’s love. We experience true peace and unity by becoming contemplatives who are also active in the world.
I heard a TV talk show host say that, one evening when everything was set up for an interview, he looked around for his celebrity guest and saw him standing several yards away, leaning on a camera, his head resting in the crook of his arm, his eyes closed. After several seconds the guest moved up to the set and took his seat at the table just in time for the interview to begin. The host asked him after the taping what he was doing for that short time, and the man answered, “I was praying.”
Seeking the wisdom of God, who lives within us, can be as simple as that. Bishop Fulton Sheen said that whenever he was about to converse with someone who had come to him for counsel he always paused for a minute or two to open his mind & heart to direction by the Spirit of God.
When we listen eagerly to God, as God’s word comes to us in worship, in prayer, in moments of silence, we become more & more disposed to listening to each other as well, because we learn to expect God’s message there, too. There is never a time or a circumstance in which dialog with God is not readily available. Driving alone to give a retreat in Chicago some years ago I found it easy to commune with the Creator both in nature and in the many interesting people I met along the way, whose stories of love and courage and generous service revealed the presence of God to me. In my home or in someone else’s, at the table, in my comings & goings, there is never a doubt in my mind that God is there more completely than I am.
The Christian church began with controversy and confrontation at every level of its early organization. It’s too bad that today uniformity is so overstressed. It’s not our differences that tear us apart; quite the opposite: diversity, even in matters of faith, can be a help toward unity. It keeps us thinking and probing and dialoguing in the effort to get closer to God’s truth.
It’s when we are not paying sufficient attention to the source of our life that we drift farther and farther apart from each other. That must be why Jesus stressed what he did in those last days of his earthly life: that we follow his example of listening to God always so that we would have increasingly more life to share with those we love – and those we still don’t love.