St. Paul never used the Internet and never posted something on Facebook, but he still has some good advice on how to use social media.

I realized that recently when I was preparing my homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary time. One of the readings was St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, in which he wrote, “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly ...? Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed ... in the image of its creator.”? 

That’s an idea we don’t think about a lot: The image of our creator. 

We are being renewed in the image of our creator. 

In the Book of Genesis, we are told that God made us in his image, so St. Paul’s words are not surprising. But Paul wants us to understand that, although this divine image was disfigured by the first sin, it is in Christ, our Savior, that the divine image has been restored to its original beauty. 

The Catechism tells us that, as Christ's disciples, we are “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”?It goes on to tell us that, by “putting away falsehood,” we are to “put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.”  

Traits like lying and slander are known as offenses against the truth. 

Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth. By injuring a person’s relation to truth and to neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of us and of our word to the Lord.

As the Catechism explains, the deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. 

The Catechism tells us that a lie affects our ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. “It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among people and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.” 

This applies to social media as well as to what we communicate in person. Whether we are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or some other platform, society has a right to information based on truth and justice.  

In other words, we must be careful what we post online. 

How many of us are guilty of posting or reposting things on the Internet without bothering to check whether they are true? 

How often do we take pleasure in posting something simply because it attacks or ridicules a person or organization with which we disagree? 

We sometimes forget that every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation. When we learn that we have posted a false or inaccurate statement, we should remove it and offer a public apology, online, admitting our error. 

If everyone followed this policy, we would see a lot less animosity and hatred on social media. 

If we are being renewed on the image of our creator, we should act in a way that distinguishes us from those who are not being renewed. Our actions should be different from theirs. People should be able to look at how we live and notice that it is not like the way that others live. 

Telling the truth is one way to make that distinction. 

So let us refrain from lying, from slander, and from all offenses against the truth.  Let our lives be an example to others. 

And when we sit at our computer of smartphone, let’s be careful what we share online. 
 
Deacon Walter Ayres is Director of Catholic Charities Commission on Peace and Justice