Consumerism

Pope Francis       26.11.18   Holy Mass  Santa Marta          Luke 21: 1-4
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-11/pope-francis-mass-generosity-enlarges-heart.html

There are many places in the Gospels in which Jesus contrasts the rich and the poor. We can think of Jesus’ comment to the rich young man: “It will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:23).

Some would call Christ “a communist”. “The Lord, when he said these things, knew that behind riches there always lurks the evil spirit: the spirit of the world.” But, Jesus also said: “No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24)"

The rich in this episode are not evil but are good people who go to the Temple and make their offering.

Widows, orphans, migrants, and foreigners were the poorest people in Israel. The widow had offered her whole livelihood, because she trusted in the Lord. She gives everything, because the Lord is greater than all else. The message of this Gospel passage is an invitation to generosity.

The many children who die of hunger or lack medicine are an invitation to ask ourselves: “But how can I resolve this situation?” This question, comes from the desire to do good.

An appeal to
generosity. Generosity belongs to everyday life; it’s something we should think: ‘How can I be more generous, with the poor, the needy… How can I help more?’ ‘But Father, you know that we can barely get through the month.’ ‘But surely you have at least a couple of coins left over? Think about it: you can be generous with those…’ Consider the little things. For example, look through your room or your wardrobe. How many pairs of shoes do I have? One, two, three, four, fifteen, twenty… Each of us knows. Maybe too many… I knew a monsignor who had 40… But if you have many pairs of shoes, give away half. How many clothes do I not use or use only once a year? This is one way to be generous, to give what we have, and to share.

A lady that I met; when she went grocery shopping, spent 10% on buying food for the poor. She gave her “tithe” to the poor.

We can do miracles through generosity. Generosity in little things. Maybe we don’t do it because we just don’t think about it. The Gospel message makes us reflect: How can I be more generous? Just a little more, not much… ‘It’s true, Father, you’re right but… I don’t know why, but I’m always afraid…’ But nowadays there is another disease, which works against generosity: The disease of
consumerism.

Consumerism consists in always buying things. When I lived in Buenos Aires, “every weekend there was a TV show about retail-tourism”. They would hop on an airplane on Friday evening, fly to a country about 10 hours away, and then spend all Saturday shopping before returning home on Sunday.

It’s a terrible disease nowadays, consumerism. I’m not saying all of us do it, no. But consumerism – excessive spending to buy more than we need – is a lack of austerity in life. This is the enemy of generosity. And material generosity – thinking about the poor: ‘I can give this so that they can eat or have clothes’ – has an ulterior result: It enlarges the heart and helps us be magnanimous.

We need to have a magnanimous heart, where all can enter. Those wealthy people who gave money were good; that elderly lady was a saint.

I invite you to be generous and to start by inspecting your houses to discover what you don’t need and could
be useful for someone else. We should ask God, to free us from that dangerous disease of consumerism, which makes us slaves and creates dependence on spending money.

Let us ask the Lord for the grace of being generous, so that our hearts may be opened and we may become kinder.





Pope Francis 06.03.19 Ash Wednesday

“Blow the trumpet […] sanctify a fast” (Joel 2:15), says the prophet in the first reading. Lent opens with a piercing sound, that of a trumpet that does not please the ears, but instead proclaims a fast. It is a loud sound that seeks to slow down our life, which is so fast-paced, yet often directionless. It is a summons to stop – a “halt!” –, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us. It is a wake-up call for the soul.

This wake-up call is accompanied by the message that the Lord proclaims through the lips of the prophet, a short and heartfelt message: “Return to me” (v 12). To return. If we have to return, it means that we have wandered off. Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life. Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal. If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far. We should ask ourselves: On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward? Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun? What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes? Could it be possessions and wellbeing? But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me. The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world. The direction must lead to him.

Today we have been offered a sign that will help us find our direction: the head marked by ash. It is a sign that causes us to consider what occupies our mind. Our thoughts often focus on transient things, which come and go. The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain. No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life. Earthly realities fade away like dust in the wind. Possessions are temporary, power passes, success wanes. The culture of appearance prevalent today, which persuades us to live for passing things, is a great deception. It is like a blaze: once ended, only ash remains. Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear; for God, not for the world; for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit; for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things. We should ask ourselves today: Where do I stand? Do I live for fire or for ash?

On this Lenten journey, back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretence:
almsgiving, prayer, fasting. What are they for? Almsgiving, prayer and fasting bring us back to the three realities that do not fade away. Prayer reunites us to God; charity, to our neighbour; fasting, to ourselves. God, my neighbour, my life: these are the realities that do not fade away and in which we must invest. Lent, therefore, invites us to focus, first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God. It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me. Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart. Prayer, charity, fasting: three investments for a treasure that endures.

Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21). Our heart always points in some direction: it is like a compass seeking its bearings. We can also compare it to a magnet: it needs to attach itself to something. But if it only attaches itself to
earthly things, sooner or later it becomes a slave to them: things to be used become things we serve. Outward appearance, money, a career or hobby: if we live for them, they will become idols that enslave us, sirens that charm us and then cast us adrift. Whereas if our heart is attached to what does not pass away, we rediscover ourselves and are set free. Lent is the time of grace that liberates the heart from vanity. It is a time of healing from addictions that seduce us. It is a time to fix our gaze on what abides.

Where can we fix our gaze, then, throughout this Lenten journey? It is simple: upon the Crucified one. Jesus on the cross is life’s compass, which directs us to heaven. The poverty of the wood, the silence of the Lord, his loving self-emptying show us the necessity of a simpler life, free from anxiety about things. From the cross, Jesus teaches us the great courage involved in renunciation. We will never move forward if we are heavily weighed down. We need to free ourselves from the clutches of
consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor. Jesus on the wood of the cross burns with love, and calls us to a life that is passionate for him, which is not lost amid the ashes of the world; to a life that burns with charity and is not extinguished in mediocrity. Is it difficult to live as he asks? Yes, it is difficult, but it leads us to our goal. Lent shows us this. It begins with the ashes, but eventually leads us to the fire of Easter night; to the discovery that, in the tomb, the body of Jesus does not turn to ashes, but rises gloriously. This is true also for us, who are dust. If we, with our weaknesses, return to the Lord, if we take the path of love, then we will embrace the life that never ends. And surely we will be full of joy.



1st Sunday of Advent Year A
Pope Francis  01.12.19 Congolese Mass

In today’s readings there often appears a verb, come, present three times in the first Reading, while the Gospel concludes by saying that “the Son of Man is coming” (Mt 24: 44). Jesus is coming: Advent reminds us of this certainty already from its name, since the word Advent means coming. The Lord is coming: this is the root of our hope, the certainty that among the tribulations of the world, God’s consolation comes to us; a consolation that is made not of words, but of presence, of His presence that comes among us.

The Lord is coming; today, the first day of the liturgical year, this announcement marks our starting point: we know that, despite any favourable or contrary event, the Lord will not leave us alone. He came two thousand years ago and will come again at the end of time, but He comes also today in my life, in your life. Yes, this life of ours, with all its problems, anxieties and uncertainties, is visited by the Lord. Here is the source of our joy: the Lord has not grown tired and will never tire of us, He wishes to come, to visit us.

Today the verb “to come” is conjugated not only for God, but also for us. Indeed, in the first reading Isaiah prophesied: “Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord” (2: e). While the evil on earth comes from the fact that each one follows his own path without the others, the prophet offers a wonderful vision: all come together on the mountain of the Lord. On the mountain was the temple, the house of God. Isaiah therefore sends us an invitation from God to His home. We are God’s guests, and whoever is invited is expected, desired. “Come”, God says, “because there is room in my house for everyone. Come, because in my heart there is not only one people, but every people”.

Dear brothers and sisters, you have come from afar. You have left your homes, you have left affections and that which is dear to you. When you arrived here, you found welcome together with difficulties and unforeseen events. But with God you are always welcome guests. For Him we are never strangers, but anticipated children. And the Church is the house of God: here, therefore, always feel at home. Here we come to walk together towards the Lord and realize the words with which the prophecy of Isaiah ends: “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5).

But the darkness of the world may be preferred to the light of the Lord. To the Lord who comes, and to His invitation to go to Him, one may answer “no, I am not going”. Often it is not a direct “no”, brazen, but an insidious one. It is the “no” about which Jesus warns us in the Gospel, exhorting us not to do as in the “days of Noah” (Mt 24: 37). What happened in Noah’s days? It occurred that, while something new and upsetting was about to arrive, no-one cared, because everyone thought only of eating and drinking (cf. v. 38). In other words, they all reduced their lives to their own needs; they were content with a flat, horizontal life, without momentum. There was no waiting for anyone, only the claim of having something for oneself, to consume. Waiting for the Lord to come, not claiming to have something we can consume. This is consumerism.

Consumerism is a virus that afflicts faith at its root, because it makes you believe that life depends only on what you have, and so you forget about God Who comes to meet you and those around you. The Lord comes, but instead you follow the appetites that come to you; the brother knocks on your door, but he bothers you because he disturbs your plans – and this is the selfish attitude of consumerism. In the Gospel, when Jesus points out the dangers to the faith, He does not worry about powerful enemies, hostilities and persecutions. All this has been, is and will be, but it does not weaken the faith. The real danger, on the other hand, is what anaesthetises the heart: it is depending on consumption, letting oneself be weighed down and dispelling the heart from needs (cf. Lk 21: 34).

One lives for things, no longer knowing what for; one has many goods but no longer does good; houses are filled with things but emptied of children. This is the drama of today: houses full of things but empty of children, the demographic winter that we are suffering. Time is thrown away for pastimes, but there is no time for God or for others. And when you live for things, things are never enough, greed grows and others become obstacles in the race and so you end up feeling threatened and, always dissatisfied and angry, you raise the level of hatred. “I want more, I want more, I want more...”. We see it today where consumerism reigns: how much violence, even verbal violence, how much anger and desire to seek an enemy at all costs! So, while the world is full of weapons that cause deaths, we do not realize that we continue to arm our hearts with anger.

Jesus wants to awaken us from all this. He does so with a verb: “Stay awake” (Mt 24: 42). “Be careful, watch out”. Watching was the work of the sentinel, who watched while remaining awake while everyone else slept. To keep watch is not to give in to the sleep that envelops everyone. To be able to keep watch we need to have a certain hope: that the night will not always last, that dawn will soon come. It is the same for us: God is coming and His light will illuminate even the densest darkness. But it is up to us today to keep watch, to be vigilant: to overcome the temptation that the meaning of life is to accumulate – this is a temptation, the meaning of life is not to accumulate – it is up to us to unmask the deception that one is happy if one has so many things, to resist the dazzling lights of consumption, which will shine everywhere in this month, and to believe that prayer and charity are not lost time, but the greatest treasures.

When we open our hearts to the Lord and to our brothers and sisters, there comes the precious good that things can never give us and that Isaiah announces in the first Reading: peace. “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Is 2: 4). These are words that also make us think of your country. Today we pray for peace, seriously threatened in the East of the country, especially in the territories of Beni and Minembwe, where conflicts are raging, fuelled even from outside, in the complicit silence of many. Conflicts fuelled by those who get rich by selling arms.

Today you remember a beautiful figure, Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta, who was violently killed not before saying to her executioner, like Jesus: “I forgive you, because you do not know what you do!” Let us ask by her intercession that, in the name of God-Love and with the help of neighbouring populations, we renounce weapons, for a future in which we are no longer against each other, but with each other, and convert from an economy that uses war to an economy that serves peace.



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