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AGENTS OF DARKNESS VS. AGENTS OF LIGHT

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Homily for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter, 11 May 2022, Jn 12:44-50

“I came ito the world as LIGHT, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in DARKNESS.” St. John tells us this is how Jesus understands his mission. Light and darkness are of course metaphors here for truth and falsehood.

As the Father’s agent of light, however, Jesus has to constantly struggle with the primary agent of darkness, Satan—who is able to mislead people precisely by posing as an “angel of light.” No wonder the devil was given the name LUCIFER—meaning, light-bearer, or one who seduces people to believe that what he brings is light.

The biggest arena in this battle between Christ and Satan in the age of digital technology seems to be the social media. I am referring to the battle between truth and falsehood, or between information and disinformation. Although the use of the social media is a relatively new phenomenon, mass disinformation itself is not really a new phenomenon at all. It is as old as humanity itself. It has come by many different names in earlier times, like “propaganda”, “brainswashing”, “reeducation”, “image-building”, “manipulation”, etc. It always has to do with a conditioning of the mind for falsehood than for truth.

Take note, Jesus does not condemn those who remain in darkness because they have been seduced by its agents. He says, “If anyone hears my words (meaning, the truth) and does not observe them (meaning, they choose to remain in falsehood), I DO NOT CONDEMN HIM.” Remember, his mission is precisely to save, not to condemn. To redeem even at the price of his own blood if necessary. And so he says, “I came not to condemn the world but to save it.” The name Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, literally stands for “the Lord saves”.

And yet, Jesus also says those who willfully reject the truth and choose falsehood have already chosen their own condemnation.

The real challenge therefore for the redeemer is how to get people to see the light or know the truth. It is not as simple as telling them “You’re wrong; I am right.” They will only become defensive or may even turn offensive because they feel that they are being attacked.

In the search for truth people will not always act rationally. Jesus says something like this in Jn 3:19, “Light came into the world but people preferred darkness to light because their works are evil…” (or better yet, they are under the spell of evil). He also says, “they hate the light and don’t come to the light so that their works might not be exposed.”

So how would you expect the agents of darkness to favor the principles or values of honesty, transparency or accountability? Evil is like a fungus that thrives in dark and secret places. So how would you expect trolls to reveal their true identities? They are hugely successful precisely because they are allowed to run myriads of fake accounts in social media platforms. You know that they are doomed when they no longer feel any sense of guilt about what they are doing. They might even say, “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.”

In this age of mass disinformation through the social media, propaganda can get more quickly amplified than the truth. Take note, this is not something that only trolls can do. The evil about trolling is precisely the fact that they quickly replicate themselves when their hidden voices are amplified by holders of real accounts who have been seduced by their false narratives.

Ask yourself when you receive a video or a piece of information, did you even bother to verify the source before you clicked the share icon and spread it around? Is it not true that even the most sincere and well-intentioned people can also become agents of disinformation when their emotions are overcome by anger or frustration or fear like a thick cloud of darkness?

People can be so convinced about a lie, they can actually substitute it for the truth. In another passage, Jesus also said “And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be!” (Mt 6:23b) Sometimes, when the truth becomes too inconvenient, some people find themselves withdrawing into falsehood as some kind of a comfort zone. They can behave like stray rabid dogs whose nervous system has been attacked by a virus that makes them afraid of the light. You cannot just order them to come out to the light because they are hurting or afraid.

If we are to participate at all in Jesus’ work of redemption, then we must learn not to give up even on people who have been seduced by darkness. Look what he did when they hung him on a cross, he prayed for them and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” He proved his radical love by descending into the hell that people are capable of making of their lives. He confronts evil head on and gives the agent of darkness a final blow in order to break his spell once and for all and lead his captives back to light.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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