Can You “Unplug” This Lent?

Can you settle down for just one minute?  Seriously, how long can you go without feeling like you need to do some sort of activity?  I don’t know about you, but I feel like I always have to do something.  I feel anxious if I’m “unplugged” and not checking email, Facebook, and news feeds.  I become bored easily without my cell phone, computer, magazines, books, and television.  Fortunately, I have access to all sorts of media almost 24/7.  But is that a good thing?  The Catholic News Agency reported Pope Benedict’s words during a general audience of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square:

“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word,” and yet, “our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation,” the Pope said March 7. On the contrary, “it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days.”

John Longanecker talking on a phone after eati...

The Pope’s words make so much sense to me particularly during this season of Lent.  We tend to fill our lives consuming so much media and information that we do develop a fear of detachment from our technology.  We feel lost without our gadgets.  And while we don’t truly believe that our gadgets replace God, we sure sometimes act like they do.  We get so worked up over an almost-dead cell phone battery or the internet acting sluggish.  We can all probably think of times when we felt angry over missing a favorite TV show.  And yet many times we don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety over the sins we commit or not regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We often have no worries about overlooking routine prayer and meditating on our relationship with the Lord.  We spend so much time staying up to date with what our friends are up to and what goes on in the world, but often don’t take the time to check our status with God through reflection and contemplation.

The pope’s words remind me of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary.  Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our guide on our journey to God’s heavenly kingdom.  In asking for silence and meditation, the Pope echos Mary’s call to fasting and prayer.  Fasting from food is a physical reminder that true happiness does not come from just satisfying our earthly needs.  When we fast, we show ourselves that it’s not what the world offers that will ultimately make us happy.  We push aside, even for just a little while, satisfying our physical desires so that we can concentrate on satisfying our spiritual needs.  But we can fast from things other than food.  We can fast from whatever prevents us from meditating and focusing on our relationship with God.  As you probably guessed already, perhaps we need to fast from our computers, cell phones, and televisions.  Lent may be half over, but we can all still find a little time to “unplug” as the Pope suggests.

pope and me
pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)

In this time of Lent, really challenge yourself to ask what separates you from fully receiving God’s grace.  Conduct an examination of conscience and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But avoiding sin and receiving absolution only gets you half way there.  Think about an athlete in training.  An athlete needs to do more than just avoid a bad diet.  He needs to focus on physical conditioning and perfecting his technique.  Likewise, we need to be more than “not bad people.”  We should take some time this Lent to focus and concentrate on how to best live as one of Jesus’ disciples and show the power and glory of God in this world.  Lets take up the Pope’s challenge to unplug and focus on how we can best serve the Lord.  Because now, more than ever, the world needs to see God’s love and glory by us living our faith.  We need to prioritize and show the world that our faith is more important than TV and the internet.

And yes, I understand the irony of me posting an article on the internet discussing how we need to unplug ourselves from the internet.

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