The “Clickbait” of the Cross

By Fr. Bradley Vanden Branden, O. Praem.

By no means would I consider myself a social media aficionado. To be honest ­(or “tbh”),  Twitter is too much for me to figure out, my LinkedIn profile is left wanting, I’ve tried and tried again to make it in the blogosphere, and I’ve never even visited Reddit. Instagram is slowly growing on me, and the students and staff at Notre Dame de la Baie Academy know how much I pride myself on crafting ridiculously “catchy” hashtags: #ShamelessPlug.

Yet, I’m still a sucker for “clickbait.”

You know—clickbait: those sneaky headlines that tantalize your imagination and make you second-guess scrolling past them. It could be something as innocent as, “Did You Know This Common Household Item Could Do This?” to more edgy slogans like, “Top Vatican Official Reveals the Truth.” And it never fails; I click on the bait.

I’m not sure why I fall for it … am I secretly hoping to discover the cleaning potential of sliced lemons? I don’t think so! Still, the clickbait is just so tempting, there are many times I can’t seem to take my attention from it as I’m browsing my social media accounts.

It’s strange, though, that as much as lemon-based cleaning products and supposed Vatican truths can catch our eyes, we’ve grown blind to the clickbait that Jesus presents.

Jesus was all about using catchy stories and creative words to teach His followers about the Kingdom of God. Think about stories of lost sheep and lost coins (Lk 15:1-10), of wedding guests and street people (Mt 22:1-14), and of salt and light (Mt 5:13-16). Suddenly these images become too stale or boring for us. We view these creative lessons of Jesus as less about intrigue and truth, and more about obligation and duty. They land on our deaf ears.

Perhaps this Lent, we could change our browsing habits from household cleaners and suggestive NewsBytes to an even more elusive piece of clickbait: the cross.

All of Jesus’ teaching and preaching culminated in that moment where He hung on that cross, isolated from any followers. It was on that rugged piece of torturous equipment that the Lord hung and forgave us for having deaf ears. It was on that wooden harness that Christ gave His own Mother and Beloved Disciple to each other as a model for the Church. It was on that gnarly post that the Son of God spent Himself completely for all of us.

This Calvary-clickbait has echoed throughout Christianity for millennia, and still can be used today to inspire us toward a rejuvenated devotion to what the Lord taught us. Learn from His stories and example. Find ways to:

  • better support the poor.
feed and clothe the homeless.
  • visit the lonely or elderly.
  • welcome the relational or ideological other.
  • advocate for refugees and migrants.
  • love those who have different abilities than you.
  • pray for the dying.

No doubt, these merciful acts are not easy. They require that we give of ourselves, which is never an easy task. Instead of looking for followers of our own, suddenly we are being invited to follow Jesus alone. Although He gave His all on the cross, we are being asked to give a part of ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters. Yet, it was also His cross that ushered in the Resurrection.

This Lent, stop falling for the clickbait that leads nowhere. Instead, follow the clickbait of the cross. Use that event of selfless love, forgiveness, and service as a model for your own spiritual development, so that you, too, can join in Easter joy—transformed and renewed in your own call to holiness.

Lent2017: #Love. #Forgive. #Service.

Learn more about the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Abbey Magazine (pages 4-5).

More opportunities to celebrate the sacred season of Lent at St. Norbert Abbey »

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