Sweet and Sour

“Black Friday” has entered the national lexicon to designate the critical shopping day after Thanksgiving. An annual frenzy begins the Christmas season and projects the health of the consumer economy for the near term. The day has liturgical parallels; attendance is encouraged, the rituals of discounted pricing and piped in music rival anything religion has to offer in high holy days like Good Friday, Palm Sunday or, for that matter, Blue Monday, when all bills come due.

In Luke 17, Jesus charges into the temple to purge all buying and selling, not because he is against money or GDP, but to preserve holy ground as the heart for the common good. What is an economy if not a way to organize human dignity for all? Apocalyptic John (Rev.10), a probing voice in hard times, consumes a honeyed scroll that turns sour in his stomach. Here is the original bitter pill, sugar-coated medicine we swallow for our own good. Another, larger scroll with seven seals awaits One worthy to open it. It holds the final narrative of accountability.

Whoever picked the readings for the Lectionary may have had irony in mind, but it would be a cheap shot to blame the millions who must sell their dignity every day to survive in the global economy, from the assembly plant workers in China to the greeters and sackers in the retail malls of America. We need better systems, markets that work without the buying and selling of souls. Everyone in the end will take their medicine, sweet and sour. Holy ground begins in the heart, where love is still given freely to anyone who understands its real cost.