“Authenticity”, By Jan Pepino, Fiat Ventures

Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

As the calendar year slowly approaches its end, a recurring thought pops up in my head. “How will my Instagram top 9 look like this year?” Crazy, I know. There are so many other things I could be thinking about, yet this simple thought keeps popping up in my head, like those annoying ads for articles like “What Do Doctors Say About This New Miracle Fruit?” It’s not important, yet still intriguing enough to catch my attention. I go to my Instagram page and scroll through old posts, only to realize that I haven’t actually posted anything in quite a while, I’ve been so busy. I joke around with my wife and say maybe if I post pictures from our recent vacation, then I’d still be able to make it. But am I really joking though?

A recent report came out about Facebook regarding their response to the effect of social media on teens. The company has conducted research about Instagram and found adverse effects on some teenagers’ mental health. Some teens who use Instagram admitted to having lower self-esteem as a direct result of what they see on social media. They compared their lives to the “seemingly perfect” lives of other users and as a result, they felt that their lives weren’t as interesting as their peers. Instagram has a way of showcasing curated content, making it seem like users are living their dream lives. Though, in reality, no one is seeing anything authentic and real from people on this platform. It has cultivated a culture where we only post things to make our lives seem perfect in order to gain likes and attention.

Reflecting on my own humanity, I realize that I also fell victim to this mindset. Motivated by my wanting to feel seen and accepted, I post things for people in order to gain validation. Instead of being happy with the way God created me, I try to perfect an image to please other people. After seeing this Sunday’s readings though, a sense of hope surged within me.

Jesus warns his followers about the scribes and their performative works of faith. The scribes are seen at seats of honor at synagogues and banquets and would say lengthy forms of prayer. Jesus then proceeds to say that the poor widow who offered what little money she had, contributed more than the rich people who put in large sums.

As humans, we all yearn for a sense of belonging and acceptance. In this week’s Gospel, we see people trying to earn recognition by putting a lot of money in the treasury. I was able to see myself in the shoes of these wealthy people. Instead of reflecting on what I had and the things that God has given me, I sometimes choose to put on a front and show people that I’m doing a lot better than how I’m really feeling. Choosing to post superficial things, thinking that this is the only way that people will like my posts. God, however, works in ways that we sometimes can’t comprehend.

Maybe this week, God is calling us to reconsider how we carry ourselves in public and really think about what we post on social media. What if he’s calling us to repost that prayer or maybe share a picture of something that will draw people closer to him. Instead of aiming to post something to get the most likes, what if we post something that might speak to others of his love and mercy? Instead of chasing followers and likes, let’s encourage each other to continue to follow Jesus. To be ourselves and to love with authenticity, just like he did, and will continue to do for us. Let’s pursue Jesus with our whole hearts, until our distractions fade, and he alone is enough.

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