Together in Spirit

Browsing From the Desk of Fr. Mike

The Medium is the Message

The medium is the message.

(Marshal McLuhan, Understanding media: The extensions of Man, 1964)

Marshal McLuhan writes: The content of the medium is a message that can be easily grasped and the character of the medium is another message which can be easily overlooked. McLuhan says "Indeed, it is only too typical that the 'content' of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium". For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled "the scale and form of human association and action.”

In the Gospel today we hear: “In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!" Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!" The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.”

This is a great example of McLuhan’s observations about what is communicated. The content of the message is that “I know who you are-the Holy One of God!” What can be overlooked is the character of the medium that is delivering the message: the man with an unclean spirit. Jesus goes directly to the medium (the unclean spirit) and rebukes it saying “Quiet! Come out of him!”

There is a discernment principle here. As our generation continues to immerse itself in the fast-paced world of information given to us by the search engines of a multitude of websites we can easily overlook how they are shifting the way that we interact with each other. Quick information can be quite handy to resolve disputes and provide some clarity to many arguments.

There is a silly series of commercials in which it is imagined that the instant replay of the sports broadcasts can be applied to everyday human interaction. In this day and age of the ever-present phone camera I suspect we are not far away from that becoming a reality. This technology is shaping and controlling the scale and form of human association and action. One has to step outside of the medium’s influence to evaluate how useful and essential the present forms of media are applied. 

Jesus identified the medium that was proclaiming the message of His true identity. He would not give that medium any occasion to control the scale and form of His association with the human race. He wished to be known on his terms not on the terms of an unclean spirit. 



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