Sunday, July 10, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #46... The other 3 Rs

Are you old enough to remember when Sundays were Sundays? By that I mean, when churches were open but stores were closed, when most people had the day off to go to church and/or spend with their loved ones, and no one expected anything different.

All that changed in 1985 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that banning Sunday shopping was unconstitutional. These days, in our multicultural society, some faith traditions observe days other than Sunday as sacred, but from the look of the mall parking lots on most traditional days of worship, many people would rather check out the chapel of consumerism's newest gizmo rather than spend time praying or thinking about the mystical connections between God, ourselves and creation.

This week's reading of Pope Francis' letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home reminds me of the importance of Sabbath time, which in observant Jewish culture is actually from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night, a full 24 hours. So many of us don't have Sundays off anymore, but it's a good idea to try to set 24 hours of Sabbath aside for God at some point in the week, simply because our consumption-oriented culture barely takes an hour a week of God time, if any at all.

Paragraphs 233-237 of the Pope's encyclical (which you can access by clicking here and scrolling down) reminds us of the importance of making time each week for R&R&R -- rest, relaxation and reverence. They are just as important as reduce, reuse and recycle, because if we give them proper place in our lives, our faith can lead us to a change of attitude that encompasses deep care for the earth.

Sunday, Sabbath, sacred time on whichever day of the week fits your faith, is super important time -- so important that Pope Francis devotes five paragraphs to it in a section entitled Sacramental Signs and the Celebration of Rest. Celebration of Rest, I like that. The whole section is excellent -- if you have some understanding of Eucharist. (I guess Pope Francis forgot that a lot of people in the world might not know the meaning of that word -- or maybe he wants to inspire curiosity about it.) The basic idea is this: God comes to us through the beautiful and ordinary things of creation, so really everything can be a sacrament -- a sign of God's presence and love. And if we can see everything in our world as sacred, as somehow connected to the Creator, we give thanks (the word Eucharist means thanksgiving) for it, we become more receptive to God's presence in it, and we will want to do our utmost to care for it.

Cameron Lake, in Waterton Park AB
I feel like we've come full circle as I post this picture from the third Laudato Si Sunday Reflection way back when. That's when I asked if my readers ever stood in awe before creation, exultant or speechless, and somehow aware of God in it all. Sabbath time is meant to give us an opportunity to take a break from the usual rat race and find God in everything. Really, that's what this entire section is about, and I would encourage you to read it for yourselves because it holds many beautiful ideas. So this week, I'm just going to quote one piece of paragraph 237, which talks about the importance of making time for the rest that allows us to be reverent and aware of God's presence in everything and everyone around us:
We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary, but this is to do away with the very thing which is most important about work: its meaning. We are called to include in our work a dimension of receptivity and gratuity, which is quite different from mere inactivity. Rather, it is another way of working, which forms part of our very essence. It protects human action from becoming empty activism; it also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which make us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else.... Rest opens our eyes to the large picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor. 
In this gorgeous week of summer ahead of us, let's find a place of rest where we can be aware of the beauty with which we are surrounded, the Creator who gives it to us, and the work we need to do so that everyone may enjoy it in simplicity, peace, and freedom.

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

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