Sunday, March 3, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Seeing rightly, living rightly

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Luke 6:39-45.

You challenge us,
O Christ,
to see rightly.

Our blind spots
to your will in our world
come from our own prejudices.

It is easier
to find fault with others
than to address our own inadequacies.

Known by the fruit we bear,
we must ask ourselves:
where does our treasure lie?

You tell us
that our words and actions
arise from the abundance
of our hearts.

Help us,
O Christ
to let our hearts rest
in the beauty,
goodness and truth
that is you
so that we may increase
your beauty,
goodness and truth
in our world.

Show us how to see rightly
and live rightly.


 * * * * * * *

This week's rereading of paragraphs 27-31 of Pope Francis' encyclical letter, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home (the entire encyclical can be accessed by clicking here) reminded me of all the water that I take for granted. The Pope and his encyclical writer friends preface their comments on water use by pointing out that "... the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels. The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we have still not solved the problem of poverty." (paragraph 27).

Water is one of those things we waste and discard without thinking. It isn't just important, it's essential to life of all kinds -- "terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems" need to be everyone's concern: "Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences.... Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production." (paragraph 28).

Of course, it's always the poor -- those who lack security, wealth, and political power -- that are most affected, as noted in paragraph 29. In the developing world, they often don't have access to safe water, or have to walk long distances to access it. But even here in a "developed" country like Canada, we still have 60 drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves, though I am happy to note that's down from 132 advisories since I last looked at the website, and 3 of 4 of the advisories in my own Alberta backyard have been resolved. Inadequate water treatment, or pollution of water sources through industrial activity are an issue faced by our marginalized brothers and sisters all over the world. Too often humans are desecrating the fresh water God gives us, which flows and flows until it reaches the oceans, polluting them as well.

To add insult to injury, the poor face inadequate fresh water supplies in some places because large corporations are privatizing and bottling water, selling it at higher prices per litre/gallon than gasoline. Paragraph 30 states that "access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights." And yet we in North America continue to use water and buy bottled water as if it is an unlimited resource. Yesterday on my walk with the dog, I picked up two empty plastic bottles, grrrr. (Plastic is one of my pet peeves these days!)

Last summer, Lee and I visited the Athabasca Glacier from which our North Saskatchewan river takes its waters, and this time, there was a good-sized stream flowing off the glacer long before we reached it. Our city depends on water from the Athabasca Icefields. What will happen when they're gone? Global climate change means that some parts of the world are already facing acute water shortages, but still we forget that we can't create glaciers, or rainstorms, or a single water molecule the way God can.

Paragraph 31 points out the possibility of water shortages within a few decades, but our brothers and sisters in Australia, California, South Africa and so many other places know what it is to live with water scarcity. They have already been forced to implement measures to conserve and protect water sources. Fresh water is anything but infinite, and we should all be doing the same.

St. Francis sang the praises of Sister Water, "so useful, humble, precious and pure" in Il Cantico del Sole (Canticle of the Sun), as if she was a person standing right beside him. We would do well to treat water with that kind of love and respect.

So today, I'd like to invite my readers to get themselves a glass, go to the kitchen faucet, and fill it, and reflect on whether we are seeing water rightly -- as an extremely valuable resource -- and using water rightly. Is our water clean and clear? Take a sip and savour. Consider: how much does it cost? How do we take it for granted? How can we use less/pollute it less? Do we use phosphate-free dish soap and laundry soap? Do we remember to carry our own water bottles so that water sources aren't comodified for our convenience? Can we cut down on less critical water use such as lawn watering, sidewalk spraying, and car washing for the sake of the environment? How can we support our brothers and sisters who are affected by water shortages and drinking water advisories?

Do we treat Sister Water with the respect she deserves? Or is there room for improvement? Lord, that we may see.