April 19, 2023, 6:00 AM

How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me? Psalm 116:12

St. Francis knew what repayment to the Lord meant for Christ’s goodness in the resurrection. He gave up focus on himself; focused instead on rebuilding churches, caring for creation, and leading others to see God’s all-encompassing goodness. While doing so, he did many things in silence. He listened to others and said, “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words.”

How do many of us repay God for his goodness? Anticipated responses might include: “Who is God, anyway? Why do we owe God anything? What is repayment? I am out to get what I can – money, looking good, friends, and, of course, just being connected. Give me my cell phone. Life is about me, holding on to my own truth, and running over anyone who gets in my way. Ah yes, life is about me.”

How did we become so self-centered? What happened to kindness and respect for others? We trample over others in coffee shops to get our caffeine fix, push ahead of others in checkout lanes, cut others off in traffic, and turn up cellular devices to block out anything that might actually be informative and beneficial for the good of others.

In reflecting on today’s culture, it may be that we are just now beginning to see the results of an unregulated digital age. The line between reality and fiction is being blurred; not because of digital technology, but rather we have replaced intimate connections for a lie of intimacy.

When a child is born, a child does not know that they are a separate individual from the parent. A sense of self in a child is developed through intimate affirmations initiated by a parent (usually the mother). Eventually, the child becomes independent of the parent and maintains a strong capacity to love as the parent loved them.

Trauma prevents an ability to form intimate connections. Physical abuse, verbal denigration, hunger, isolation, abandonment, and even digital technology can blur or distort this ability to love. There is no question that recent mass shootings are being done by individuals who are devoid of a positive sense of self and who lack an ability to intimately love others. They possess little potential of repaying “goodness with goodness” and even less of a chance of countering “badness with goodness,” as we have been instructed by Christ.

In a growing void of interactions with parents, children are seeking to be affirmed by what they hear through electronic devices. However, those devices project only an illusion of connection. Nothing can replace the love that comes from paying attention and listening deeply to the perplexing stories that our children tell. Electronic digital devices will never be a substitute for you and me.

Remember that “repayment” for God’s love includes listening deeply to one to another – often in silence, and frequently without the interruption of technology. Our lives change when we take God’s “repayment” seriously.

This week, welcome silence, tune out the daily cacophony that bombards us, and begin to thankfully repay God for all the good things God has done for us.

Blessings and Prayers in this Season of Easter,

Fr. John