Sunday, August 11, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: Faith-ing it until we make it

This week's reflection is brought to you by
Hebrews 11:1.

O God,
your servant,
Paul,
tells us that
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, 
the conviction of things not seen.

I struggle to hope and to believe.

Not in you,
O God,
but in the human beings
that think they are in charge
of various parts of your planet.

My faith that you are there
in spite of this mess
that we have made of your creation
is unshakable.

But my faith
that we can turn things around
before it's too late
is very shaky.

Please,
God,
please!

Help us human beings to wake up
and realize
that care for creation
is top priority
in this time of fires,
floods,
dying species,
unbearable heat
and ever more violent storms.

Help us to change our ways,
to rise and call for change,
until world leaders have no choice but to listen.

Help us to become change
for the sake of all of your creation.

Our faith,
our hope,
and our conviction
lie in you.
We need to trust
our climate scientists
and to work together.

Help us to faith-it --
to put our faith in you and those who understand
the kinds of changes we must make --
until we make it --
to the kind of world
you want us to live in.

Please,
God,
please!

+Amen.

* * * * * * *

This week, I've been feeling quite anxious about the state of our planet. Our odd-weather summer --and all the climate emergency news stories that the media is finally reporting -- have me worried that we're running out of time. It's getting harder to have faith that our human race will be able to tone down our consumption of fossil fuels and planetary resources in time to prevent our climate issues from doing us in.
Photo by Alex Andrews from Pexels
But then our local mayor talks about the changes our city plans to make, and calls dealing with climate change our "moon-shot" moment. Don Iveson was comparing our present challenges to the race to the moon, and reminding us how North Americans threw everything they had into putting Neil Armstrong onto the moon on July 20, 1969. Don was telling us that if we put everything we have into reducing fossil fuel emissions and preventing further planetary warming, we can mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

But we have to act now. And Don Iveson already has, making Edmonton one of the world's cities that has signed on to trying to reduce our collective emissions to align with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's recommendations. "While nations plan, cities take action," he said, when he made Edmonton a C40 city back in March of 2018.

Where does faith-ing it come into all this? I suspect we need to put some of our faith in God's goodness, and the rest of our faith into listening to what evidence-based science and leaders like our mayor are telling us so that we can make the necessary changes to save our earth from further damage.

This week's paragraphs (91-95) in Pope Francis' encyclical letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, carry some pretty sharp words. (see for yourself by clicking here). We finish the section on A Universal Communion and begin the one on The Common Destination of Goods, and guess what? Our North American lifestyle is a clear sign that things aren't shared very well around the globe.

If human beings really believed that care for each other and care for creation are inextricably linked, would our world be in its present state of pollution and climate-related issues? Paragraph 91 notes that "It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted." Once again we hear the chorus [for the third time], "Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society."

Our sense of community and universal communion can exclude "nothing and no one" says Paragraph 92, because "our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings.... We can hardly consider ourselves to be fully loving if we disregard any aspect of reality.... Everything is related" [that chorus again, fourth time].

And yet, we are always disregarding aspects of our reality. For example, and this is just one of many, how often do we think about how or where our clothing is made? Are the people who make our apparel being treated fairly? Are the processes involved compatible with a healthy environment? It takes research to find out those kinds of details, and most of us simply don't have the ability to interrogate the CEOs in charge, or the time to look into the business practices related to everything we wear. But here's a thought -- buying our wardrobe second hand, or wearing hand-me-downs is actually recycling and opting out of the consumerism that insists upon the latest style and the most recent market-created trend...

I feel as if I'm always singing the same song from this encyclical, and not just because the everything-is-connected chorus is playing over and over again. Awareness of where we can improve the planet's health by using fewer resources eventually makes all these suggestions I'm offering rather obvious. At least, they're obvious to me. Are they obvious to you?

Unfortunately, awareness can be a dangerous thing. It means we have to change!

Paragraph 93 says that "every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged." Here I would carry our social perspective even further than that yet again -- because it's not only human beings who are poor and underprivileged in this world -- we regularly impoverish other species as well by our lack of consideration. Saint John Paul II said that "God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone." But I think God went even further than that -- the earth isn't just for the human race! It's for all living beings. I can't disagree, though, when he says that "it is not in accord with God's plan that this gift be used in such a way that its benefits favour only a few." (See footnotes to this section).

Unfortunately, it's too true that 1% of the world's population possesses more than half of its wealth, and that many of us in the cities of the western world have more than our share of the planet's goods. Paragraph 94 reminds us that "The rich and the poor have equal dignity," and quotes the Bishops of Paraguay regarding the rights of every campesino to "a reasonable allotment of land where he can establish his home, work for subsistence of his family and a secure life... [with equal access to] education, credit, insurance and markets."

Do any of us really have need for more than these kinds of basics: food, water, shelter, clothing, right livelihood, education and community? Paragraph 95 tells us that nature is a collective good which belongs to and is the responsibility of everyone. If we are honest, we don't actually 'own' anything. So really, those things we consider to be possessions are things we just administer "for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others." The last sentence of the paragraph is the real zinger: "the Bishops of New Zealand asked what the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" means when "twenty percent of the world's population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive."

I'm guessing that you and I are in that twenty percent. I know that if everyone lived as North Americans do, we would probably need another five planets like earth to support our lifestyles! Which tells me that I need to tone it down! But how is the way we live killing people in the developing world -- or in the future?

It's not like we're doing it directly. It's the little things that we often aren't aware of that are the problem. Wasting or being careless with what we have. Buying more than we need. Thoughtlessly adding to global climate change by unnecessary use of fossil fuels. Eating too high on the food chain (did you hear what the ICPP scientists said about eating meat this week?). Taking what we have for granted. Feeling entitled to more than our share because we've worked hard for our money. Going overboard to keep up with the Joneses.

The better way? Appreciating everything. Owning less. Travelling less. Eating simply. Sharing. Living in sufficiency instead of excess.

And participating in events and organizations that make us and the world more aware of how we can become more responsible for our planet, reducing climate change and other negative impacts created by over-consumption and unequal distribution of the world's common goods. The fact is that a lot of us have gotten used to living pretty "high on the hog." I'm suspecting that Laudato Si is Pope Francis' gentle way of telling us that we're going to have to tone it down several notches when it comes to our lifestyles in order to save the lives of those in the developing world and the generations to come, never mind our own lives!

We are not to despair... we are simply to have faith, to act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly (by living more simply) with our God and each other.

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