A Reflection from Fr. Joseph
Two old friends were at a sidewalk café catching up on their lives over a drink. The one said to the other, “Why is it that you have not yet been married?” The other friend said, “Well to tell you the truth, I have been looking my whole life long for the perfect woman. There were several times where I thought I had found her. Once, in Barcelona, I met a woman who was beautiful and intelligent. I thought certainly this is the woman that I should marry? Then I found out that she was vain and conceited and so that relationship came to an end. Then once, in Boston, I met a woman who seemed perfect to me, in every respect. Only later I found out that she was flighty and irresponsible. Then recently I met a woman in Montreal, who was intelligent and beautiful, generous, warm, and dedicated herself to others. I said to myself, this indeed is the perfect woman. This is the woman that I should marry.” “Well,” said the friend, “Why didn’t you marry her?” The other man fingered his glass and replied in a quiet voice, “Because she, was looking for the perfect man.”
Our society is a consumer society. Dangerous things begin to happen when we allow consumerism to influence our relationships: the way we relate to others, the way we relate to God. You cannot choose a wife the same way as you would shop for a new car. You cannot analyse your relationship to God the way you would analyse an investment on the stock market. For all the differences in our culture: race, religion, education, economic status, Americans are united in the fact that they are consumers. We do not all have the same amount of money to spend, but it is our money and spending that gives us power.
Now, the point of this homily is not to attack consumerism. Consumerism is a part of our culture, whether we like it or not. But my point is to warn you that it is dangerous, for us, to allow consumerism to influence our relationships because we, as Canadians, who are fundamentally consumers, can begin to approach our relationships as a kind of commerce, and taking that step is asking for trouble. Therefore, I want to name three expectations of consumers and illustrate how none of these are helpful in directing our relationship to God or our relationships to others.
Consumers expect that life is going to be fair, beneficial and free. Consumers expect that life is going to be fair. We are always looking for a fair price for what we buy. Consumers expect life to be beneficial. We only buy things because we think they will be good for us. Consumers think that life should be free. Consumers expect to have the discretion of choosing one thing over another.
Consumers value fairness, benefit, freedom. But these categories are inadequate to the realities of human relationships and our relationship to God. Jesus calls us to look in a countercultural direction. He calls us to open ourselves to acceptance, to service, to commitment. His Gospel insists that it is only when we enlarge our attitudes in that direction that we can truly appreciate the breadth and mystery of life. It is only when we make room for countercultural values that we will have the clarity to see the Kingdom of God.