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Be an online ‘Good Samaritan’

“I have asked you. They have asked you, and she, my mother, has asked you. Will you refuse to do this for me, to take care of them, to bring them to me?” This is what Jesus said to Mother Teresa in a vision she had shortly before leaving the Loreto Sisters to work with the poor.

In the Archdiocese of Denver we have people who are hungry or homeless. But the greater poverty, Mother Teresa reminds us, is to lack love, to not know God and experience his embrace.

This week the archdiocese is launching a redesigned website (www.archden.org) that has the mission of introducing people to Christ and his Church. We are doing this to help address the profound spiritual need that exists in our society and as a response to Pope Francis’ call to create a “culture of encounter.” Our faith is not a theory. It is an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ, who lives within the Church.

In his 2014 message for World Communications Day, Pope Francis explained how to build a culture of encounter by referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, who acted as a “neighbor” toward the beaten and bruised stranger he met.

“A culture of encounter,” Pope Francis explained, “demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive. … The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.”

Using social media as a “neighbor” means drawing near to people and, in the words of the pope, taking responsibility for them as the Good Samaritan did. As you meet people, both in-person and online, I ask you to see it as a chance to be a neighbor who points the way to Christ.

It is easy to be afraid of the mess that might result from trying to help someone, to take shelter in the anonymity of the Internet and pass along unnoticed like the priest and the Levite did in Jesus’ parable. But Jesus calls us to focus on the person who is suffering from spiritual poverty or loneliness, rather than on ourselves, and to rely on his grace to help us.

As I read Pope Francis’ message on communications I came across a beautiful reflection that I would like to share with you so that you might be inspired in your efforts to be a neighbor in the digital world, and more importantly, in person.

“Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts. May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful ‘neighbors’ to those wounded and left on the side of the road. Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.”

This is the work of the new evangelization: to bring the news of reconciliation and forgiveness to the world through new means and with new enthusiasm!

St. John Paul the Great, one of the Church’s greatest communicators and evangelists, reminded us of Jesus’ words of encouragement and so I recall them again.

“Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to engage in conversations that touch those wounds that come from sin, from an absence of God or from damaged relationships. Do not be afraid to speak about the life, joy and happiness that Christ has brought you through his Church.”

May all of us take heed of the call to evangelize and to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world! Jesus is the greatest gift we can give another person, and a gift our world so desperately needs to encounter.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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