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Making Amends; Moving Forwards
There are many issues and divisions dominating our society in 2019. Consumerism is a great disease that fosters insecurity, envy, lust, and is an enemy of generosity. A large portion of our society subconsciously contributes to consumerism. Pope Francis says, “The desire to spend vast amounts on shopping and needless extravagances can prevent Christians from being generous with others.” Consumerism forces people to view everything through a materialist vision. The spiritual nature of a person is forgotten and the poor and marginalised become obstacles to possessing more goods. Consumerism is restricting human flourishing and authenticity. We are all subject to a responsibility to build an economy that serves all human beings. We are called to respect the goods God has given to all and ensure they belong to all so that each person can reach their full physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual potential (CST Solidarity). “It is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption in developed countries and wealthier sectors of society where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached precedent levels” (Task Sheet- Framing Quotes, 2019). Through the mercy of God, we are led to see the right way to ask for forgiveness to then bring the right way to other people. We are called to become disciples who bring mercy to the marginalised in society.
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Our consumerist society is encouraged to recognise the impact of our actions and forge ahead in a reconciled and peaceful way. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”. In order to achieve social and economic justice and heal the divisions in our society, caused by consumerism, every person is led to see the right way through the mercy of God. “The truth is that whether we have ecclesiastical honours, notched up theology degrees, or made significant progress in the spiritual life, we are all very needy and broken human beings. We are totally dependent upon the mercy of God for our redemption and sanctification” (Embrace the year of Mercy, 2015). Every person is made in the image and likeness of God and is therefore fundamentally good (CST Human Dignity). “Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity and let us recognise that we are compelled to heed their cry for help!” We will ultimately be judged on whether we fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and spent time with the sick and those in prison. (cf Mt 25:31-45) We will not be remembered by the goods we possess.
The relationship between the Eucharist and reconciliation allows us to heal lustful relationships and move forward in light of the gospel. The Catholic Church is open to all humanity and speaks to all people. The Church has been sent by Christ on a mission to all people. Regardless of our limitations God’s is joyous when we seek forgiveness for our sins. When we say sorry, we are renewed in our way of God and love is manifested in his mercy. The mercy of God is the true force of our religion and allows us to move forward. When we fall short in our living of the gospel and revert to our old ways, it is the Eucharist that assures us of mercy and forgiveness. The Eucharist prayer and the preparation for Holy Communion testify God’s determination to forgive our sins. Eucharist is an on-going sacrament of mercy. The Eucharist affects the way we see others. In his life, Christ manifested his love by being with people, and by sharing their desires and problems. The Eucharist brings us together with others, young and old, poor and affluent, neighbours and visitors. We do not celebrate the Eucharist because we are worthy but because we recognise our need for God’s mercy, incarnate in Jesus Christ. Our hearts are enlarged to receive and show mercy as we are nourished as the Christian community by Christ’s Word and Life and renew the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ for the remission of sins.
It is our duty to restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love and be poor among the poor. We are constantly called in everyday life to include the excluded and preach peace. Pope Francis wants us to be so deeply touched by the merciful God that we experience a profound change of heart. Then, from this go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God. Moving forward every person is encouraged to implement an action-reflection process “See, Judge, Act” in response to life and societal issues. This process will strengthen and restore a person’s conscience. Conscience is the experience of ourselves as moral agents, as persons responsible for our actions. Whilst the word ‘conscience’ is not found in the gospels, the teachings of Jesus emphasise that external actions come from the heart. “All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2).
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Catholic Social Teaching Principles cover all spheres of life including economic, political, spiritual and personal. Consumerism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian belief in ‘Human Dignity,’ ‘Preferential Option for the Poor,’ ‘The Common Good,’ and ‘Solidarity.’ Too often Human beings lack moral integrity. Moral integrity involves not only knowing what is right or wrong but having the ability to act what is right. The key to living a moral life is developing an informed conscience. God created human beings with an intellect and free will and through conscious decisions we become people God called us to be. By giving us freedom of choice God enables us to love. However, ego often stops us from loving and acting in the correct manner. Conscience enables us to recognise what is loving and what is not, what helps humans to flourish and what inhabits human flourishing.
Our current, unjust, global economic structure that leaves the poor behind, as economic elites grow richer is at odds with Christian beliefs. Jesus’ entire life was one of self-emptying. This defining characteristic of his being came to its climax in his surrender on the cross. There he handed his life over to the Father in loving self-sacrifice, offering himself unreservedly on behalf of the whole of humanity and the entire creation and thus bringing about their reconciliation with God (Unknown, n.d.). In order to create a just system that promotes the flourishing of all humans, it is our responsibility to prioritise the common good above market ideology and placing God’s law above the practice of increasing our consumption of consumer goods. People must remember that their worth and dignity is not dependent on materialistic goods, but rather being made in the image of God. And, ultimately, we must all remember that human beings are not object to ignored to consumed. Only then will be eliminate the throwaway culture and rebuild the bonds of the one human family.
- Christian, R. (2015). Why are Catholics so critical of consumerism? Retrieved from https://cruxnow.com/life/2015/06/02/why-are-catholics-so-critical-of-consumerism/
- ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
- Esteves J. (2018). Consumerism is the enemy or generosity, pope saya. Retrieved from https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2018/11/26/consumerism-is-the-enemy-of-generosity-pope-says/
- NCR Staff. (2016). Popes quotes: Consumerism. Retrieved from https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/francis-chronicles/popes-quotes-consumerism
- Unknown. (n.d.). Eucharist. Retrieved from https://www.catholicaustralia.com.au/the-sacraments/eucharist
- Unknown. (n.d.). Reflection on action for justice. Retrieved from http://www.rec.bne.catholic.edu.au/Religious%20Life%20of%20the%20School%20P-12/Religious%20Life%20of%20the%20School%20P-12%20Elaborations/Pages/Reflection-on-action-for-Justice.aspx
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