Saturday, March 30, 2019

Laudato Si Sunday Reflection: To make all things new

Today's reflection is brought to you by
2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

As your family members,
when we are
one in mind and heart
with you,
O God,
creation is renewed.

You only want us to reconcile ourselves to each other
and to you
through our oneness of mind and heart,
to take up a full-time ministry of being of
one mind and heart
in you.

You do not count our sins against us,
but only call us to unity and reconciliation
with all your creation.

You call us to be your emissaries,
to live
in reconciliation and unity
and to invite others to join us.

You became one of us
so that we might become one
with you and all that you have made.

Give us minds and hearts
to see the many places and ways
where our oneness with you
can become the oneness
to bless your world
with the newness
it so desperately needs.


* * * * * * *

In thinking about the new creation in Christ that we hear about in today's second reading, I look around at creation at present and wonder how we can make it new with God's help. Unity of heart and mind, seeing the world with the compassion with which God sees it is certainly a big part of that. It's heating up down here, and it's much harder to ignore the climate crisis when you don't have air conditioning, as is the case for most of our family members in the developing world.

Climate change is also HERE -- in our backyard. Remember how hard it was to breathe in Edmonton back in August thanks to all the summer forest fires? Our sister, Mother Earth, is crying out, trying to wake us up, but are we blowing off her disasters (including storms like the one in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe) as coincidences -- at our peril?

At the beginning of a section about Weak Responses -- paragraphs 53-59 of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (access it by clicking here) -- Pope Francis puts it plainly: "Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years." Our advancing technology won't be able to save us if we are lacking the caring culture needed to address the earth's issues, and the leadership to bring about change. Laudato Si is the Pope's small step to push humanity in the right direction, a call to wake up.

But will it be enough? We need a solid plan that the world's entire population will buy into, with international law to back it up. Otherwise, the strongest voices (of the economy and politicians looking to save their seats) win. Climate summits have been happening every year since 1995, but not one of them has brought about serious change. I am ashamed that my Canadian government has been one of the worst when it comes to reneging on its promises toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I'm ashamed -- and angry -- and grieving.

Pope Francis points out that "the alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.... any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented" (paragraph 54).

It never ceases to frustrate me when people with economic interests in resources deride those who care about the environment, pointing out that without such-and-such a resource, life won't be so cozy or convenient. The thing is that many of us are only too aware of the inconveniences that come with protecting our planet, and are willing to put up with more hardship and hassles if it means future generations will have a planet worth inhabiting.

But if our environment continues to decline, none of our present sacrifices will matter. The fact that our family gave up one of our two cars has meant that sometimes we miss some events and activities, but life is not about convenience in most parts of the world! Most of our brothers and sisters on this planet don't have one vehicle, let alone two or more... Should we? I often wonder how we could live with no car at all. I'm sure it would be doable. But we'd all need to jump on that bandwagon to really make a difference at this stage in the game... and there's my terrible excuse.

Paragraph 55 looks at the fact that while some countries have made significant progress toward ecological sensitivity, overall "harmful habits of consumption" haven't changed. And Pope Francis and his team actually mention "the increasing use and power of air-conditioning" as an example. I'm sure you and I could list so many more. As the Pope notes at the end of the paragraph, "An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive." We are killing ourselves and creation by taking the good things God has given us for granted, wasting them and the earth in the process.

Paragraph 56 says that too many of us "deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is." Paragraph 57 is even less cheerful, raising the spectre of wars, nuclear and biological, once resources become scarce (I'll let you read that part for yourself) and concluding, "What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?"

But as various people in the Bible say over and over again, "be not afraid." Paragraph 58 reminds us that human beings have been able to reverse some of the negative planetary impacts we have had in the past, accomplishing small things that prove that "men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity, and care cannot help but well up within us, since we were made for love."

Image result for old and newThe last paragraph of this section (59) warns us against "the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness." It's not enough to buy all the 'green-washed' cleaning products off the store shelves or participate in Earth Hour once a year -- and forget about changing the rest of our lives.

The planet will probably continue as it is for some time, leaving us with the illusion that things are fine and our little actions are making a difference, but if we continue with our same old thinking "carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption... delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing [bad] will happen," nothing NEW happens. And it's the big changes that we need to make that will save us.

I had a conversation with my future son-in-law this week about the kind of future his kids (my grandkids) will see, and he reminded me that societies have undergone radical changes when necessary in the past. The Weak Responses section that I reread this week is calling us toward stronger action NOW -- for the sake of all of creation. Could we live with one less vehicle in our lives? Could we turn off the air conditioning and lower the thermostat in the winter? Shop less? Share more? Spend more personal effort instead of taking consumer culture's quick, cheap, and easy ways out?

What am I taking for granted that I can appreciate more -- or do without?

What sacrifices am I willing to make to save our planet?

And most importantly, how can we see our world with God's compassion and help to make all things new again?