Friday, November 27, 2009

The Lines of 'Black Friday'

Dear Parish Faithful,

Today is "Black Friday." It sounds ominous, but I believe that this is the designation for the day after Thanksgiving which sets holiday shopping into serious motion, boosts - if not "saves" - the economy, turns malls into meccas, and transforms consumerism into a ritual with quasi-religious undertones of strict observance. No condescension meant, just an observation. I understand that some stores had lines outside forming as early as last night. This takes an almost ascetical dedication. The word "sale" can have an appeal that transcends the boundaries of its promises. To show up at dawn means to take a humble spot in the back of the pack. Fear of missing out on a longed-for item can create deep concern if not genuine anxiety. Your neighbor may just be your competitor. Is anyone smiling? It would be interesting to try and measure the level of satisfaction or"fulfillment" that a successful shopping expedition brings to the soul.

The one further observation I would make is this: If Christians would line up outside of their churches in large numbers eagerly anticipating the opening of the doors so that they can pour into the temple for prayer and thanksgiving to God, then they would actually be able to transform the world in which we live for the better. To put that in a slightly different manner: when Christian zeal matches or surpasses consumer zeal, then will the Gospel really impact our lives and the lives of those around us. But, alas, that is not the case. The promises and comforts of consumerism are taking their toll on everyone - including Christians. Frighteningly, people no longer abandon God for some philosophical or scientific reasons, but simply because they are satisfied with the level of existence that can be achieved within the quotidian world of items and objects.

I am going to pass on Black Friday, and wait a bit more before I do my Christmas shopping.

Fr. Steven

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