Friday, November 23, 2012

Good Friday, Not Black Friday

Lectio Divina

Then Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things.

Luke 19:45

They are without knowledge who bear wooden idols and pray to gods that cannot save.

Isaiah 45:20

For the love of money is the root of all evils.

1 Timothy 6:10


Continuing with Mumford, The City in History.


No ministry today, the day after Thanksgiving. The novices get a "day off." But I had something else in mind than movies or the mall.

This morning, I travelled with my brothers to the shopping complex in Santa Maria. While they were running errands elsewhere, I went to the Walmart superstore, walked into the vestibule, found a spot where there was no traffic, knelt down, and prayed for an hour for the needs of the store employees and warehouse workers on strike throughout the country today. (See them now; read more about it here and here.)

Walmart workers were the first to notice and ask what I was about. When I told them, they thanked me.

Most shoppers were oblivious to the presence of a lone person kneeling in prayer in an unlikely place. But a few made eye contact and smiled, even if they could not comprehend what I was doing. And a few of those few did ask why I was praying. And then we had a conversation. They understood and sympathized as I, in turn, asked them to think twice about they way they live: what they buy, where they buy, how they buy, and why they buy. I urged them to consider who bears the cost of their convenience. Some asked what Scripture I was reading, and I shared the passages noted above. I pointed out that, in my opinion, Walmart's slogan, "Save Money. Live Better," is irreconcilable with the Word of God given to us in 1 Timothy 6:10.

Only one person gave me a dirty look and dirty word. And the police officer who passed through the vestibule didn't give me even a first look -- he must have been called to the store to handle some report of theft. 

I "behaved" myself this morning. I was courteous, patient, and even compassionate. No shouting. No grandiose gestures. I was meek. I do not want to speculate about the "difference" I made. God knows what becomes of the mustard seed.

We as a society, starved as we are for religious experience, invent rituals to compensate for our spiritual poverty. Is Black Friday the best we can do? When did Black Friday become a "holiday"? And when did Walmart and its titanic rivals in the retail industry become the builders and keepers of our shrines?

Does anyone else see the jarring contrast between the feasts of Thanksgiving, its quiet moments for encountering gratitude, and the spectacles of Black Friday, its noisy orgies of taking? The mystery of gift is perverted into the mysticism of riches.

I'm not being fanatical or frivolous when I say that I pray for the end of Walmart as we know it. The nation's largest employer concretely symbolizes the economic structures of sin. But it's not just Walmart. Everything about our thoroughly secularist economy must change. There is a true Gospel, and it is not the gospel of consumerism.

The person matters first. The person matters most. The person is the gift, and God, who is personality itself, is the source of all riches. Francis, the merchant's son, learned this through conversion.

We are not saved by Black Friday. Salvation was accomplished on Good Friday.


The sun is shining and the sky is blue, and it feels good.

1 comment:

  1. Your gesture, your act, seems wonderfully appropriate and deeply Franciscan.