Brothers and sisters, raise a hand if you’ve ever felt the sting of loneliness pierce your heart in a room full of bodies. Laughter echoes around us, yet it bounces off the cold blue glow of screens instead of igniting warmth in souls. Thumbs scroll mindlessly, eyes glued to virtual worlds while our shared reality grows dim. And how many of you, right here, right now, were looking at your phone before I started talking? No judgment, friends, not a bit. We’re all human, weavers of stories etched with both triumphs and missteps. But tonight, let’s set those screens aside and delve into the richness of our shared humanity, the connections that flicker not on pixels, but within our hearts. For in community, even in this age of silicon canyons, we can weave a tapestry of love, forgiveness, and belonging, a tapestry vibrant enough to rival the glow of any screen.
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus reminds us: “You are the light of the world.” But how often do we, in this age of endless screens and glowing rectangles, dim our own radiance by burying it beneath the bushel basket of technology? We scroll through newsfeeds, curate online personas, and chase the fleeting dopamine rush of notifications, all while the lamp of our compassion, creativity, and connection flickers within, unseen and untended. Is this truly how we were meant to shine? We have replaced the light of the Holy Spirit with the light of a black mirror.
Remember when neighbors who voted for different presidents could still sit next to each other in church, hands joined in prayer and community? The pews weren’t battlegrounds, but bridges, where diverse beliefs bowed to the shared human yearning for connection. Back then, Sundays weren’t a tally of red and blue, but a symphony of hope, woven from voices both familiar and strange, rising together in a hymn of shared humanity.
I do. Remember the town hall debates, with Bush in his khakis and Dukakis in his tank? We might have roared for different teams, but we watched them together, in living rooms filled with laughter and friendly jabs. Sure, voices got loud, opinions clashed, but when the last question faded, hands clapped for both sides, united by the shared thrill of democracy in action. Back then, the lines between red and blue weren’t battle lines, but bleachers, where we cheered on the grand game of American politics, knowing that even after the last score, we’d still be neighbors, friends and family.
We thought that more information would do nothing but make us smarter and better people. We were wrong. It turns out that “more” isn’t always the same as “better”. Quantity only matters if the quality stays the same. The internet has given us mountains and mountains of information that is the mental equivalent of candy or, in some cases, poison. We need the right KIND of information and I know for a FACT that Google loads the dice of its algorithms away from the light of God’s kingdom and towards secular isolation. I suspect that the others in Silicon Valley do as well.
Do you need to know what your neighbors do in their bedroom? Do you even want to know what goes on in your neighbors bedroom? Privacy exists for a reason. We all accept and know that there are things about our neighbors which we would not like. Sometimes this is because our neighbors are sinners. Sometimes it’s because we’re the sinner. We are a world of flawed people and we have become a world of intolerant belligerent people. We have forgotten the most important word that Jesus ever spoke. Love.
In hushed intimacy, under the cloak of moonlight, Jesus whispered His most revolutionary commandment: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) He spoke these words to his apostles shortly after he had washed their feet, showing them exactly how to love. No one of you here today is higher or lower than any of your brothers or sisters in the eyes of God. Jesus proclaimed himself their teacher and their master and THEN he washed their feet, showing them that his position in society should not privilege him. That is how Jesus commanded us to love.
The beauty of this act of service, this radical humility, is that it transcends differences in status and elevates the act of caring for another above all else. In that simple gesture, Jesus redefined the way we view power and leadership, demonstrating that true greatness lies not in claiming authority, but in serving others with love and compassion.
Imagine our world, brothers and sisters, if we embraced this revolutionary way of loving. No longer would we be divided by lines of social class, political affiliation, or personal opinion. Instead, we would find unity in the shared act of service, kneeling before one another not in submission, but in the profound understanding that we are all children of the same loving God.
Think of your neighbor, perhaps someone you hold different views from. Can you see them through the lens of Jesus’ foot-washing? Can you imagine yourself kneeling before them, offering a gesture of understanding instead of judgment, a helping hand instead of a raised voice? This is the challenge Jesus presents us with, but also the promise He offers: that in following His path of radical humility, we can bring healing and forgiveness to our fractured world. Remember, John 15:12 isn’t just a commandment, it’s a roadmap. It’s a call to action, a challenge to embrace the revolutionary love that knelt at the feet of the apostles and forever redefined the meaning of leadership, service, and connection
Technology can lead us astray from the path Jesus showed us. In the picture-perfect landscape of social media, where every interaction is curated and every moment filtered, love risks taking a tumble. We compare our messy reality to polished online personas, and soon, the potholes of self-doubt and inadequacy appear beneath our feet. We forget that love embraces the cracks and crevices, the stumbles and the scars that make us human. Social media’s relentless pursuit of perfection creates a treacherous terrain, forcing us to walk on eggshells instead of embracing the vulnerable authenticity that fuels genuine connection.
Now, brothers and sisters, why would we ever crave a world of airbrushed smiles and flawless facades? Why, in the hallowed halls of God’s kingdom, do we yearn for a digital Eden where every sunset is saturated and every laugh perfectly staged? Vanity. We are vain narcissistic creatures. Vanity whispers sweet nothings in our ears, promising a kingdom of admiration carved from carefully curated moments. It drapes us in digital finery, obscuring the scars and laughter lines that tell the true story of our lives. Vanity seduces us with the mirage of effortless perfection, a world where every sunrise bleeds into a postcard and every stumble is swiftly deleted.
We hunger for that applause, that virtual pat on the back, mistaking it for genuine connection. Yet, in this pursuit of a flawless facade, we trade the raw beauty of authenticity for the sterile sheen of likes and followers. We become architects of our own gilded cages, trapped in a world where every pixel demands perfection, leaving no room for the divine messiness that makes us human.
This insatiable craving for an airbrushed world is ultimately a rejection of God’s handiwork. We yearn for a sanitized existence, free from the wrinkles and blemishes that speak of laughter and hardship, growth and resilience. But it is these very imperfections that make us unique, that bind us to one another in shared vulnerability. It is in the cracks and crevices of our lives, not the curated highlights, that God’s love truly shines.
Let us, then, turn away from the seductive whisperings of vanity and embrace the authentic tapestry of our lives. Let us walk unafraid on the uneven terrain of vulnerability, where true connection and love blossom amidst the imperfections. For it is in our messy, unfiltered humanness that we find the grace of God, the joy of genuine connection, and the path to a love that transcends the fleeting validation of the digital world.
Thousands of years after the coming of Our Lord and Savior we still fall prey to the deadly sins but what even is “sin”. Sin, at its core, is not a declaration of our inherent evil, but an acknowledgement of our human fallibility. It is the misstep on the path, the wrong turn in the maze, the moment where we falter and stray from the light. We are not monsters, but wanderers, prone to the occasional stumble in the journey towards the divine. Jesus is the light at the center of the labyrinth and we must strive to join our light unto His.
Brothers and sisters, let us remember that technology is not the serpent in the garden, but a mirror reflecting the choices we make. It is neither inherently holy nor damning, but simply a tool, as neutral as clay in the potter’s hands. It can be molded into instruments of love and connection, fostering understanding and healing across continents. Yet, it can also be twisted into instruments of sin, breeding division and discord in our hearts and homes.
Consider, if you are familiar with his work, the ministry of Bishop Robert Barron of the Catholic Church. Through his “Word on Fire” platform, he leverages the vast reach of the internet to bring the good news of Jesus’ teachings to individuals around the globe. This approach, distinct from the historical models of colonization and cultural imposition, allows individuals to encounter the message of faith on their own terms, wherever they may be. This is not to diminish the dedication and sacrifices of past missionaries, but to acknowledge the different landscape and opportunities presented by modern technology in spreading the love of Christ.
Imagine a future where the seeds sown by things like Bishop Barron’s “Word on Fire” take root and blossom into a global garden of interconnected faith. Think not only of virtual cathedrals soaring through the digital ether, but of a vibrant marketplace of ideas and traditions, where the wisdom of every creed echoes under the same digital sky.
In this future, imagine an imam from Tehran leading a virtual Hajj pilgrimage, guiding millions of faithful, regardless of location, through the sacred rites, fostering a shared experience of devotion that transcends earthly borders. Picture a Buddhist monk from Kyoto hosting a meditation course, its calming mantras carried on the digital winds, reaching anxious souls in bustling Manhattan or remote African villages, offering solace and connection across continents.
And what of our own dear traditions? Envision a young Christian from Rio de Janeiro, armed with a VR headset, stepping onto the sands of Bethlehem, experiencing the Nativity as if they were there. Imagine a devout Hindu from Mumbai sharing their Diwali rituals with a curious Catholic from Rome, their laughter and joy lighting up the virtual space, shattering walls of ignorance and building bridges of understanding.
Technology, that tool so neutral in itself, holds the potential to become the brush with which we paint this extraordinary future. AI-powered translations will break down linguistic barriers, allowing the ancient wisdom of the Torah to mingle with the profound verses of the Quran, the rhythmic chants of the Vedas to blend with the soaring hymns of Gregorian chant. And within these virtual marketplaces of faith, where hearts and minds mingle freely, prejudices will crumble, replaced by a kaleidoscope of understanding and appreciation. Perhaps, someday it will even help us translate the oldest texts, said to be written in the languages of the angels themselves.
But remember, brothers and sisters, this future is not a preordained paradise. It is a path we must pave with deliberate steps, fueled by mindful choices. We must learn to wield technology as a tool of connection, not division, choosing to amplify love and understanding over anger and ignorance. We must actively seek out the shared threads that bind us, the common ground of our humanity that lies beneath the tapestry of our diverse faiths.
But remember, there are many potholes on the road to that beautiful destination and one of the biggest is what has come to be referred to as “scientism”. I am a scientist by trade and I know my craft well but a naive understanding of what we scientists do can easily lead people to believe that science and religion are incompatible. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Science can help us to map out the portion of God’s creation we have access to with our external senses. Evidence we can build and share and show. But what of the evidence that comes from our inner senses? The vibes and feels and inspiration that each and every one of us experiences but have not yet found a way to share with each other. Science has nothing to say about those.
As a scientist myself, I understand the allure of scientism. It’s tempting to believe that cold, hard facts hold the key to everything, that the physical world is the only map we need. But just as a botanist meticulously studies leaves without dismissing the whispers of the wind through the branches, we scientists must acknowledge the limitations of our tools.
Think of it this way: imagine the universe as a sprawling tapestry, woven with threads of matter and energy, illuminated by the torch of scientific inquiry. But beyond the reach of our instruments, in the folds and shadows, lie threads of a different kind — threads of experience, of faith, of love. These threads are no less real, no less impactful, yet they require a different kind of microscope, one forged in the furnace of introspection and faith.
Scientism, in its misguided arrogance, claims there’s only one type of thread, only one way of weaving meaning from the universe. But true science, true inquiry, embraces the mystery, the vastness beyond our immediate grasp. It recognizes that the human experience, woven with both the tangible and the intangible, is itself a testament to the divine mystery. This doesn’t diminish science, brothers and sisters, it elevates it. It places it within a grander narrative, where the quest for knowledge becomes a humble act of communion with the divine craftsman who spun the first threads of existence.
Remember, science is not the enemy of faith; it’s a lens, albeit a limited one, through which we can glimpse the awe-inspiring complexity of God’s creation. Let us embrace both the rigorous pursuit of fact and the open-hearted exploration of the inner landscape, knowing that each path, when walked with humility and wonder, leads us closer to the divine source of all being.
Another pothole on our path to a vibrant future of connected faith is, ironically, the one that isolates us — the pothole of loneliness. While technology, embraced wisely, can be a bridge between hearts and minds, it can also become a cage, a screen separating us from the very human connections that nourish our souls.
Think of our ancestors, gathered around flickering fires, weaving stories that bound them together. Today, those fires have been replaced by glowing rectangles, each one drawing us into a curated world, a universe of our own making. We share, yes, but often only curated snippets, carefully crafted facades that mask the vulnerability and yearning that truly connect us. In this echo chamber of self-constructed realities, it’s easy to forget the shared human symphony playing just beyond the screen, the chorus of voices waiting to harmonize with our own.
This isolation, brothers and sisters, is a subtle but insidious enemy. It can chip away at our sense of belonging, our willingness to empathize, to step outside ourselves and embrace the messy, beautiful tapestry of humanity. It can turn us into islands, adrift in a sea of data, longing for a connection we’ve forgotten how to forge.
Then, at the bottom of that Abyss, once we have created a world of our own design to live in, things begin to get strange. Bereft of connection to community, family and God we start to lose the final thread. The connection to ourselves. Without a larger community to anchor our identity in we go adrift in search of purpose and meaning. Such journeys into the Abyss with no light to guide us almost always end in tragedy.
We see this in every aspect of society. Identity politics divides our nation. Rising mental health crises drive up the suicide rate. Bigotry of every sort threatens to erupt into violence at any moment. Humans, in isolation and without community, can become intensely vicious creatures. Vanity transmuted into Wrath through the pain of isolation. Alchemy of the most poisonous sort.
Remember though that God has provided us with the brightest light possible. His own, through his Son Jesus Christ. Some of you, right now, might feel that wrath building in your soul, an echo of the Leviathan roaring in the darkness at the bottom of the Abyss. Calm yourselves, brothers and sisters, for God’s love extends even into the deepest trench. This sermon isn’t just words floating in the void; it’s a rope thrown into that well, a lifeline woven from the very threads of community and hope. Reach out, grab hold.
Discord and Faithbook beckon, virtual cathedrals with open doors, waiting to fill the silence with whispers of shared faith and understanding. Apps like Headspace and Calm offer quiet corners in the digital storm, sanctuaries where anxieties can melt away in guided meditations. If the darkness feels crushing, remember, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is just a phone call away, a compassionate voice ready to listen in the night. Even the Leviathan, brothers and sisters, can find its way to the Kingdom of Heaven by following the Light — and so can you.
Let your mind be ignited in the flames of the Holy Spirit. Let YouTube sermons become anthems in your headphones. Let virtual choirs harmonize with your loneliness. Remember, the Abyss may surround you, but God’s light pierces through the shadows, leading you towards communities of believers, creative outlets, and the solace of virtual gatherings. Don’t stay in the darkness, brothers and sisters. Climb out, one click, one prayer, one connection at a time. The Kingdom of Heaven awaits, bathed in the warm glow of a million digital candles, each one kindled by the unwavering faith that binds us together. If all else fails just drink some tea of whichever variety you prefer and listen to your favorite version of “Hallelujah” on repeat. That always works for me.
When I do that, I feel the scales fall from my eyes, the Leviathan fading into distant smoke. With Jeff Buckley’s gravelly soul whispering the verses, I’m swept into a storm of yearning, a plea for connection echoing across the cosmic ocean. His voice cracks raw and primal, mirroring the desolation within, yet there’s a spark, a defiant flicker that refuses to be extinguished. Like a lone candle in the abyss, it reminds me, even in the depths, we hold the power to ignite.
But sometimes, I seek solace in the soaring grace of John Cale’s rendition. His voice, a weathered cathedral in the digital night, offers a sanctuary of acceptance. With each melancholic note, he paints a world where brokenness is not ostracized, but welcomed, embraced as part of the divine tapestry. In his Hallelujah, I find not a desperate plea, but a quiet resignation, a surrender to the mystery of existence, trusting that the light will find its way even through the cracks.
And then there’s Rufus Wainwright’s theatrical flourish, a defiant proclamation of faith in the face of despair. His Hallelujah is a battle cry, a trumpet blast against the encroaching darkness. With each operatic flourish, he reminds me that even in the abyss, beauty can bloom, a defiant testament to the human spirit’s unyielding capacity for song. However, my favorite is the version popularized by Leonard Cohen because the first Hallelujah I ever heard in the depths of my soul was the broken and the faded Hallelujah.
Seventeen was the first time I was arrested and it wouldn’t be the last. I had followed the path of scientism down into the Abyss and found myself sitting alone in darkness comforted only by my sins. I clung to pride and wrath and vanity as though they were virtues. Love was discarded from my romance and only lust prevailed. I ate my feelings gluttonously and envied the happiness and peace that people less intelligent than me somehow found. Finally I gave up and sloth lulled me into complacency. I threw myself into drug abuse as a final refuge and it would have killed me if those police officers hadn’t been as merciful as they were. They would have been justified in killing me for what I did to them but instead they took me to a hospital and got me the care I needed. That night the Athens, GA police department put aside their badges and the laws of man and followed the laws of God. I am eternally thankful for that moment of Grace. My journey back to the Light began that night.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth,” Jesus once declared in those sun-drenched fields of ancient Israel. And in our modern America, with screens casting a constant glow upon our faces, he might add, “Blessed are the unplugged, for they shall rediscover true connection.” In this digital age, meekness takes on a new shade, a quiet rebellion against the tyranny of notifications, curated personas, and endless scrolling. It’s a conscious unfurling of clenched fingers, a stepping away from the precipice of virtual abyss, a choosing of hushed whispers over the cacophony of the online mob.
We must rediscover the sanctity of silence and shared presence.
We cannot rediscover true connection without embracing the full spectrum of humanity. It demands more than silence, it demands courage — resilience in the face of injustice that ignites our righteous anger but refuses to let it consume us. It calls for gentleness in a culture of aggression, not weakness, but a fierce tenderness that holds its ground with open palms and a resolute heart. For connection thrives not in echo chambers of outrage, but in the quiet empathy we offer to those bearing the scars of suffering, those whose stories are rarely amplified in the digital din. In their eyes, we glimpse the tapestry of shared humanity, woven with threads of joy and sorrow, triumph and tribulation. And it is in this shared gaze, in this profound empathy, that the light of true connection flickers to life, even amidst the shadows of our digital age.
We are creatures of habit, wired for comfort and routine. Yet, beneath the clamor of our digital lives, a deeper current whispers change. In a world that prizes progress at breakneck speed, openness to change demands a quiet courage, a willingness to step off the well-worn path and embrace the unfamiliar. It asks us to slow down, to peel back the layers of information overload and listen to the whispers of intuition, the wisdom gleaned from experience, the patient unfolding of knowledge over time. For in this humility in the face of knowledge, we acknowledge the vastness of what we don’t know, the ever-evolving tapestry of truth woven from a multitude of voices. It is in this space of openness, slowness, and humility that we dance with the unknown, where genuine connection with ourselves and with others truly blossoms.
Let the Beatitudes draw you into the Mystery and apply Jesus’ wisdom to the modern world. Perhaps rather than asking, “What would Jesus do?” we should ask “What would Jesus have me do?” Jesus did not demand that every man woman and child abandon their worldly lives and proselytize. He only commanded twelve to do that. If you feel that calling then follow it but if instead you are called to be a carpenter, painter, household manager or any other profession then let your gifts find their expression and let Jesus’ guiding wisdom move your feet towards the Kingdom of Heaven.
Technology is a tool, but it’s not the source of true wisdom. It may help to guide us towards truth but we mustn’t confuse the Moon and the finger that points at the Moon. Choose whichever ancient text you want. My personal preference is the Bible and the Nag Hammadi library but if you can read the Vedas in the original Sanskrit then by all means find wisdom where you can. Remember your ancestors. They survived much harsher conditions than anyone alive today has ever known and they left their wisdom for us as a gift. Like a single ember of fire passed from one generation to another keeping the tribal fires alight we must carry forth the torch of God’s light into the future.
Our society stands on the precipice of spiritual collapse. Mammon’s strength grows as sinful men and women construct unholy idols out of capitalism and nationalism. Identity politics destroy families and communities as people reject the very nature of their children. We must remember Jesus’ calling to love each other as we love ourselves but we must also learn how to love ourselves well. Jesus showed us. He washed the feet of his apostles and washed the sins of mankind from our souls, if only we have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Take these words as a call to action. Go forth today and preach the good news in whichever language or tradition you hold closest to your heart. Listen well to the wisdom shared by your brothers and sisters. Leave judgment to our Father in Heaven and spend your days living and loving in the Kingdom of Heaven.