Saturday, February 1, 2020

Laudato Si Sunday reflection: Being remade as God's creations

Today's reflection is brought to you by
Malachi 3:1-4.

O God,
You promise to send a messenger
to prepare the way before you.

And so,
we wait
to see
your Christ who has come
and is coming again
in the actions
we fulfill
in your name.

You tell us
he is like a refiner's fire
and like fullers' soap;
he will sit as a refiner
and purifier of silver
to remake us
until we are pleasing to you.

I pray,
O God,
that as we are being remade
by and into your Christ,
you will also help us
to remake our world
to be a place
where all of your creation
is renewed
and pleasing to you.

Take our hands
and use them as your own.

Holy Spirit,
and through our working together,
renew the face of the earth!


* * * * * * *

I have to hand it to Pope Francis and his writing team. I can't think of much that they've missed in addressing concerns related to the health of Mother Earth in Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. This week we even get into the importance of public transportation rather than personal vehicles...

We're looking at paragraphs 152-155 of the Pope's encyclical, which can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down. This week's reading is the continuation and conclusion of the section we began last week, Ecology of Daily Life.

Paragraph 152 attempts to address the lack of housing we know exists in many parts of the world. Immediately I found myself thinking of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro... But why did my mind go so far afield? Especially when I walk past homeless camps in our Edmonton river valley more often than I'd like to admit... and when I think how our present provincial government is cutting funding to the rental assistance program for low income Albertans by 24%... click here to hear an interview that explains what's going on.

The Pope and friends are trying to address the difficulties many people have in affording or even finding a reasonable place to live, and encouraging humanity to find answers because "Having a home has much to do with a sense of personal dignity and the growth of families. This is a major issue for human ecology."

In Edmonton, our inner city is a place with too many poor housing choices and too many homeless people. Housing First is one organization that is working toward putting roofs over people's heads before tackling addictions and mental health issues. EndPovertyEdmonton is a local task force that names the problems faced by the poor in our city, and is working together to eliminate poverty in Edmonton within a generation. Does that sound like pie in the sky to you? With the economic downturn in Alberta's economy, it's definitely a challenge, but we have to move forward in hope. What do you know about poverty reduction strategies where you live? How can we all offer support in this task?

I smiled when I read where the Pope gently shakes his finger at some of our human transportation:
The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering to those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy. This makes it necessary to build more roads and parking areas which spoil the urban landscape.... (paragraph 153).
He's right... and his further comments regarding "the need to give priority to public transportation" make me wonder how long it will take for us to understand that if we want to mitigate the effects of climate change, we need to decrease our dependence on single occupant vehicles and opt for public transportation which creates fewer fossil fuel emissions.

In my city, people love to complain about the inefficiencies of our transit system, but if we all suddenly started taking transit daily, increasing the need for it and insisting our municipal leaders improve the way it works, it would have to become more efficient in a hurry. How do you get around? Do you ride-share? Carpool? Transit? Find other ways to avoid driving at all?

It's not just urban populations that struggle to maintain an ecology of daily life -- paragraph 154 notes that our concern with highly populated cities "should not make us overlook the abandonment and neglect also experienced by some rural populations which lack access to essential services and where some workers are reduced to conditions of servitude, without rights or the hope of a more dignified life." I think of many First Nations communities in Canada that lack potable water, well-made homes, and health services, and who deal with the sense of abandonment, isolation and addiction that springs from the fact that their communities lack these basic things. How can we add our voices to theirs and raise awareness of the issues they are facing?

The last paragraph of this section discusses "another profound reality: the relationship between human life and the moral law..." and continues to explain that "our body itself establishes us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings." According to Pope Francis, "The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world... Learning to accept our body, to care for it, and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element in any genuine human ecology" (paragraph 155).

I suggest you read paragraph 155 for yourself. It's one that leaves me wondering if the Church's understanding of human life and human sexuality isn't too narrow sometimes. I know that The Bible tells us that "God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27) ... but I can't help feeling that the Church pounds too hard on sexual morality, the differences between the sexes and total insistence on heterosexual love and family life. Too many beautiful people with beautiful relationships don't fit that model.

And when people don't feel at home in their body because they have never felt like they belonged to the gender into which they are born, they don't need to be judged, but loved for who they are. It seems to me that God created our spirits with a wider gender spectrum than male and female. Every time I turn around, I meet another person who doesn't conform to biblical standards, and I suspect that's because humanity has evolved since someone wrote the book of Genesis a few thousand years ago!

The thing is, God made us, and we are meant to grow in our love for ourselves and each other, and in the understanding that God loves us. Love that gives life, literally and figuratively, is never wrong. So if the fullest meaning of our bodies doesn't fit exactly with the Church's man-made rules about human sexuality, but we can love ourselves and see God's love present in the relationships that bless us, isn't that enough?

The ecology of daily life is about belonging, caring, sharing, respecting one another, and loving God and creation. At least that's how I'm reading it. How can we protect our planet from further destruction and pollution and create a sense of belonging and care for city dwellers and those living in isolated communities all over the world? How can we offer wider acceptance and love to the poor? To those in the LGBTQ2S+ community who are also God's creations?

God is love and acceptance. Jesus turned away from those who judged, and offered his own love instead. How can we best follow his lead?

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