By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, January 16, 2017

Avoid Fake News

Much is being made recently of so-called “fake news”. It is the Internet phenomenon that is catching a lot of attention. There are websites, and users of social media, that deliberately fabricate falsehoods and seek to present and spread them as factual, reliable “news”. Easy to get taken in, sometimes with tragic results.

In fact, of course, this is not a new phenomenon. The proliferation of the lie has been with us ever since the serpent first seduced Eve. It just assumes ever more sophisticated forms. Living as we do surrounded by falsehood and illusion, we can be easily misled into pain and anguish, leaving us wondering where is the truth? On what can I truly rely?

Enter the Gospel and its proclamation of Jesus Christ. This is true because He is truth (cf. John 14:6). But do we accept it as true, or do we choose to listen to some other voice, some other “news source”?

Consider what we heard in the Scripture readings on Sunday.

In the Gospel passage (John 1:29-34), John the Baptist points to Jesus and identifies him with two extraordinary titles: Lamb of God and Son of God. Jesus is the Lamb of God because he offered himself on the Cross as the sacrificial lamb, whose death makes possible our passover from this life to the next. We know he is the Son of God because he so identified himself. As the Son sent from the Father, he has come to make possible our very participation in the inner life of our Triune God!

Throughout history, fake news has spread the idea that Jesus is less than he truly is: either he is not fully God or not fully human. This falsehood reduces Jesus to a moral exemplar that we could - but need not - follow, or so separates him from our human reality that we cannot follow him.

Or read again the passage from Isaiah (49:3, 5-6). He prophesies that the One to be sent from God will be given as light for all nations, that is to say, as Saviour for all people. The Gospel identifies Jesus as the coming of this light (cf. e.g. Luke 2:32). Fake news would have us hold that Jesus is not for everyone.

The truth broadcast by Sacred Scripture pertains to us as well. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor. 1:1-3), teaches us that we are all called to be saints. God calls us to a very high standard - the measure of holiness - and grants us the gifts we need to live this life of joy and peace. Fake news will tell us that holiness is only an ideal, that we are not really expected to live this way, and that we can settle for a life of banality and mediocrity.

What newscast do I accept as reliable? Which source of news do I allow to help shape my mindset and worldview? We know we can rely fully on the news of the Gospel. There is nothing fake about it at all! We have always called this good news, good because it is true and inspires with real hope. Any “news” that separates us from the Gospel and directs us along a different path is “fake”, a present-day echo of the ancient deception of the serpent. Let’s be sure not to give it any attention.