we await your new heaven and new earth.
You promise us newness.
But maybe the newness we await is already among us.
Your home is among us
and you already live with us.
we can't seem to remember that
for more than a few minutes at a time.
We forget that we can be
your comfort for the sorrowing,
your consolation for the distressed,
your compassion for the suffering.
If we walk with you
and live as you intend,
death and mourning will be no more,
crying will be no more,
pain will be no more;
and peace will reign
as the first things pass away.
You will make all things new.
Please, start with us.
We are reminded of the story of Cain and Abel in paragraph 70. In childhood, it was a story about giving God the best we have and looking after each other, but for Pope Francis and his writing team, it is a cautionary tale, illustrating that
Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered.The story of Noah is mentioned as another cautionary tale, God's first effort to make all things new after human beings messed things up. Then we hear Laudato Si's main refrain for the second time: "These ancient stories, full of symbolism, bear witness to a conviction which today we share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others." What I really like in paragraph 71 is the line, "All it takes is one good person to restore hope!" Referring, of course, to Noah's willingness to stand out from the crowd to renew God's reign on earth.
Laudato Si then jumps to the Psalms in paragraph 72. They exhort us and all creatures to sing praise and adoration of the God who lives with and beside us. How often do we reflect on God's presence in the creatures who live with and beside us? They are surely part of the newness God is creating.
In paragraph 73 the "prophets invite us to find renewed strength in times of trial by contemplating the all-powerful God who created the universe.... the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected." The encyclical team closes paragraph 73's musings about the prophets with a quote from Isaiah, who reminds us that God "gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless." Just what we need to hear after reading all of the earth's problems Pope Francis listed in Chapter one that might leave us feeling overwhelmed.
The Babylonian captivity, when the people of Israel were forced out of their homeland to live in exile for almost 70 years, is mentioned in paragraph 74 as an example of a time of trial and persecution that led to a deeper faith in God. God's "creative omnipotence was given pride of place in order to exhort the people to regain their hope in the midst of their wretched predicament," and the same thing happened in the early Christian era when the followers of Christ found themselves persecuted by the Roman Empire.
What's interesting to me is that all of these examples of the trials and struggles of believers throughout the Bible are held up as examples to us who face the trials and struggles that have come about because of the overuse of creation's resources through rampant consumerism and human greed. Clearly, we are in similar straits, a time when we can glean some encouragement from the way that our biblical ancestors came through trying times by trusting in God and doing what they could. If they could find their way to starting over again, surely we can cooperate with God in renewing our earth.
Paragraph 75 points out that "The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim of absolute dominion over the earth is to speak once more of a... [God] who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality."
But I'll return to the last lines of paragraph 74 for the last words in this Sunday's reflection: "The God who created the universe out of nothing can also intervene in this world and overcome every form of evil. Injustice is not invincible."
Injustice is not invincible! Especially if we see the wrongs around us, and to take a stand against them. Because injustices are ingrained in our culture, we may have to become counter-cultural, to appear a little crazy for a time in order to draw attention to the particular injustices to which our sleeping world has become immune.
I doubt we'll have to build an Ark to help God make all things new, but we might have to do something even harder in this day and age -- maybe to vote Green, to NOT to take flamboyant tropical vacations and to live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. To NOT buy the latest cool but unnecessary gadget or to NOT support a company that sells genetically modified foods. In other words, to BE A SIGN, a role model, and an example of doing the just thing -- even if it's only our families and friends who might notice what we're doing.
How will you Be the Change in the week ahead? For the rest of your days? We are all part of creating a new world of peace, joy, and love.
Injustice is not invincible!