Maryknoll Sister Mary Ellen Manz reflects on responding to God's urgent call to care for the earth, our common home.
When I read today’s Scripture readings, at first I found them rather grim, but it didn’t take too much thinking about it for me to realize how very appropriate they are for us in our world, today.
In the first reading, Jeremiah - just an ordinary person like any of us, but full of faith in God - was chosen by God to speak to the tribes of Israel, warning them of disaster and destruction if they did not repent of their wickedness and sin. At first protesting that he was just a boy and unable to do this, Jeremiah’s faith in God enabled him to trust that God was with him. So, Jeremiah delivered God’s message to the people of Judah to the extent that the officials, fearing him, plotted against him and demanded his death.
Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, exhorts the Christian community not to lose heart, but to look to Jesus to strengthen them in their faith as they face hostility, persecution and, possibly, death.
And then, is it not startling to hear these words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke?
“I CAME TO BRING FIRE TO THE EARTH!. . . Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three . . . “
This “FIRE“ that Jesus is speaking about is not destructive, but rather the FIRE OF PENTECOST which is the LIFE of the Holy Spirit which dwells in all of us if we let it, a force which burns within us. It is the fire of God’s love, empowering us to follow Jesus no matter how difficult the journey may be.
Pope Francis has called out to all people of the world in his encyclical, “Laudato Si,’ on Care of our Common Home.” Just as Jeremiah warned the Israelites of the destruction and devastation that would fall on them unless they changed their ways, Pope Francis laments the extreme poverty of vast areas of the world and warns that the uncontrolled, unlimited use of Earth’s resources and the lifestyle of consumerism and wastefulness of those resources by a few rich nations may lead to the destruction of our common home, planet Earth.
It has been over four years since Francis made this urgent call for us to change our lifestyles, not only as individuals, but as whole communities and nations, if we are to save our planet as we know it. Obviously, to change is very difficult. In spite of the urgent warnings of scientists and the fearful disasters of climate change we are now already experiencing across the world, there are still those who show no concern for the environment and the safety and lives of future generations.
To heed these warning signs and avoid the collision course that we are on requires that we be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit - a burning spirit of selflessness and love of neighbor and faith in God’s enduring love for all people and all of Creation. It means a drastic change in the way we live and use the goods of this Earth. It requires being willing to use less in order to share more with others.
There is no comfort in being ridiculed or shunned by family or friends if we speak out about the crisis that is at our doorstep, but speak and act we must. God is speaking to you and me in today’s Scriptures, just as surely as God spoke to Jeremiah and to the martyrs and saints of all times. Am I ready to listen?
Photo: Earth, Blue Planet, available in public domain.