More often than not, if you ask someone, they’ll tell you that Thanksgiving is about family, friends, getting-togetherness, love, and affection.
How do we reconcile our loving affection for family on a Thursday with the impulse to elbow one another to buy what we don’t really need at all — on “Black Friday?”
Retail stores bragged this year that they were open on Thanksgiving. What they’re really saying is, “forget about that Thanksgiving celebration with family,” so you can start buying “stuff” a day sooner instead.
Nor is disrespect for Thanksgiving the end of it. We’ve been hearing Christmas carols on the radio for weeks, not to enliven the spirit of religious devotion, or to foster love or peace on earth, but to gin up the public’s demand to spend and consume more than any year previously.
This last week, Pope Francis issued an apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” that is quite relevant – http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html .
The Pope says, “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”
Isn’t what he says absolutely true?
We have hungry, poor, homeless and jobless in our own County, one of the richest Counties in the nation. Plainly, what we’re doing isn’t enough.
The Pope says we can’t any longer “trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.”
Pope Francis says, “Just as the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say, ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
We have watched the gap in earnings widen as the wealthy few grab an unfair share for themselves without rewarding the workers who made their wealth possible. The Pope wrote, that “[w]hile the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.”
The Pope encourages us to elect to public office only those politicians who are “working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare.”
Pope Francis also reminds us that nature is not just a commodity, and that, “we human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures.” We should feel, he says, “the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment,” and “the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.” We should not “leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death, rather we should “watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live …”
The standard of a civilization is how we treat our own.
This holiday season, we should consider how we can do better – and the Pope’s words provide a good starting point.