Saturday, November 9, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: A wake-up call

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Psalm 17:1,5,6,8,15.

Hear me
when I cry to you,
O God,
out of my deep love
for all that you have made.

Hold my steps to your path
and keep my feet from slipping
out of your abundant life
and into the death dealt by greed.

I call upon you,
for you,
my Hope,
will bend down to answer me.

All of your creation
is the apple of your eye;
protect it
in the shadow of your wings.

May we all behold your face
in the beauty of all that you have made --
every snowflake,
every sunrise,
every sequoia,
every songbird,
every sperm whale,
every small child.

When we see you in all things,
we shall truly be awake --
and satisfied.

Wake us up from our delusions of grandeur
and show us that we already have enough.


* * * * * * * 

Last week, instead of reflecting on Paragraphs 111-114 of Laudato Si, (which can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down) I was discovering God in spawning salmon and a sea lion choir (well, maybe that's a generous description of the sounds they made!) This week I've been looking at the last four paragraphs from the section, The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm.

Pope Francis and friends are calling us to recognize that technology has its good points, but that giving it complete power over the way we live, think, and act is a huge issue that our world needs to face. The two-pronged belief that technology is the answer to our planet's every issue and that technological convenience is essential to every part of our lives has brought us to Monday, where 11,258 scientists declared a climate emergency because, as the encyclical says, "a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources" (paragraph 111) is clearly not going to save us.

What's required is "a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm" (paragraph 111). It's going to take more than scientists to get us out of the mess we're in. We all need to do as Henri Nouwen suggests in the quote to the right.

Pope Francis rightly notes that "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (paragraph 112).

And I am hopeful that this will happen -- in fact, I am seeing it happening more and more. At the beginning of our family's journey into a life of less consumption and more meaning thirteen years ago, it felt as though we were constantly swimming against a tide of non-essentials that marketers told us we needed for happiness' sake. But in the last few years, there's been a huge uptick in common sense as people realize that happiness actually means owning less, living smaller, protecting the planet and enjoying a healthier, more balanced life. Recent increases in vegetarianism and veganism are a literal rethinking of consumerism. And there are dozens of other examples -- slow food, tiny homes, permaculture, you-name-it!

I love these lines at the end of paragraph 112, which notes the awareness that is creeping into our world:
An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance? 
Yes! I want to shout... But... Technology has offered humanity so many amazing gadgets and gizmos -- the "novelties" mentioned in paragraph 113 -- that we've become distracted from living lives of depth and meaning. The "constant flood of new products" are simply "new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness" because, in our distraction, we have forgotten how to deeply appreciate what we already have. Pope Francis and his encyclical team clearly ask that we get back to authenticity -- that we "refuse to resign ourselves to this [escapism], and continue to wonder about the purpose of life and meaning of everything."

Here is the beginning of the BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION (the Pope's words, my uppercase) that the world needs. Perhaps we've let science and technology take on God's saving role in the world, but we can return to the God of peace and justice who acts through us -- through our appreciation for creation's wonders and our efforts to improve the lives of every being on earth by reducing our consumption, sharing our riches, and cleaning up after ourselves.

The final line of paragraph 114 says it perfectly:
Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.
Can we see and appreciate our many blessings? Can we reject those delusions of grandeur that fill us with a sense of entitlement until all of creation is cared for? Can we live in harmony and solidarity with creation and our sisters and brothers in the developing world?

Gratitude and the desire for justice for all are where BOLD CULTURAL REVOLUTION begins... and it only begins with us.

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