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Healing Ministry 1

Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2005

F rom the pulpit

Thankfulness,
consumerism, and
the prophet within
Father Thomas Johnson-Medland, CSJ

PROOF COPY ONLY - DO NOT DISTRIBUTE

In the early morning, I have presence of the “other” inside. I We would do well to take
taken to running along the canal find myself scratching my head stock of how much trash each
near my home. It is peaceful, still, and trying to decide where he home discards. I am astounded
and clears my head on most begins and I end. But mostly, I each week at the amount of plas-
days. I find that the rhythmic am appreciative of the new way tic I send back out and into the
pounding of my feet along with to view life, and am in awe of the world. How can we wonder why
my heart causes things to bubble fact that there are ever-revealing the earth is so fragile?
up out of me that are longing to and ever-deepening resources In American culture, consum-
be set free, as though there is an within each and every one of us. ing goes unchecked. We give lit-
inner prophet able to speak only Today, I heard the prophet tle thought to acquiring more
in the stillness of the predawn speak thus: “The greed and and more stuff. This is true in the
day. I have taken to listening to avarice of our society pushes us workplace (we need more busi-
his words and stories, for they toward cancer, terrorism, and ness, more clients, more profit)
give me a new vision every now global pollution.” It is not a new and in the home (we need more
and then, one that I may take set of words to ponder, but there space, more services, and more
back to color the routines of my is a clear feeling of truth to them. stuff to fill it).
life. I suppose they were drawn out of Some aspects of consumerism
I sometimes wonder about this me when I saw the mounds of have gotten to the point of absur-
trash wrapped around trees dity. Children no longer go to
Father Thomas Johnson-Medland, CSJ, Light- along the edge of the river, a fast-food restaurants simply for
house Hospice, Cherry Hill, New Jersey. reminder of grandeur disrupted. the unhealthy, overpackaged, yet
2 Healing Ministry
Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2005

PROOF COPY ONLY - DO NOT DISTRIBUTE


cleverly marketed meals; now rialism and mass-consumerism. The prophet says, How many
they base their choices on the It seems to me that what cancer phones do you need? How many
additional plastic junk toys the does to the body is similar to televisions do you need? How many
restaurants give out. There must what consumerism does to the cars, stereos, CDs, meals out, new
be hundreds of unused plastic planet. Both are empty entities. suits, shoes, toys? How much will be
junk toys in any home with chil- Both flourish in places where enough? Do you realize it will never
dren under 16. I’ve even seen soulfullness, awareness, and con- be enough? The prophet says, Ask
them showing up in garage sales, sciousness are absent. Cancer them. Don’t scold them or give them
as if they had any value. eats tissue with no concern for the answer. Just ask.
This is one of the deepest life; consumers seek to obtain I have a wealth of abundance
changes mass consumerism makes whatever is in their path with no that is unrelated to my income
in us—it changes our idea of what concern for present or future life. or the type of car I drive. I am
is valuable. The erratic compul- Ironically, these acquisitions filled with awe and wonder at
siveness that has emerged in our never bring lasting pleasure or the power that comes with
society due to our belief that we fulfillment. The Tibetans have a choosing to be thankful for what
can and should have almost any- category of beings entitled “Empty I already have and am connect-
thing we can imagine has diverted Ghosts/Hungry Ghosts”; these ed to. Being satisfied may be a
our ability to determine what has beings continually consume but dying art, but it appears to be
true value. It has also pushed us are never sated. Isn’t that a the antidote to avarice. Thank-
away from deriving worth and metaphoric description of con- fulness may not play well on
meaning from the things we do sumerism? Terrorism, destruc- Wall Street, but it remedies the
have in our lives, whether those tion of the natural world, isola- desire to consume.
things are objects, principles, ideas, tion, cancer, distancing ourselves The radiant glow of a golden
feelings, or people. from the voices in our souls—are sassafras leaf interrupts my pon-
When I hold in my heart the these not different manifesta- derings. How wonderfully rich is
countless number of individuals tions of the same beast? the color, the deep red of the leaf
and families that have had cancer As I run, as my thoughts drift to its left in such stark contrast.
ravish their lives—when I con- back to the beauty of the canal, to “Wow.” What else can we say to
sider the boundless pain inflicted the joy of the earth and her the gift of such delicious, simple
by this aggressive and unrelent- rhythms, the prophet says, Tell beauty?
ing illness—I am reminded of people. Show them why they’re Thank you. Thank you for the
how much cancer is akin to mate- unhappy, what they’re doing wrong. leaf.