SUNDAY GOSPEL REFLECTION By Fr. Efren Jimenez, OFM

The new encyclical of Pope Francis about the Environmentspeaks of the church thinking on the value of care for creation, since, “it cries out to us because we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed us.”

It is characteristic of God to give life, to sustain life and to desire not death but the fullness of life (Gospel of Thirteenth Sunday B).

We feature in this section some relevant themes of life from the encyclical Laudato Si.

Paragraph 8 – The statement of ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for, “in as much as we all generate small ecological damage,” we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation.” [14] He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings…to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of is natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins.” [15] For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” [16]

Paragraph 9 – At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.” [17] As Christians, we are called to “accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.” [18]

Paragraph 25 – Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent of natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources, which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. For example, changes in climate, to which animals and plants cannot adapt, lead them to migrate; this in turn affects the livelihood of the poor, who are then forced to leave their homes, with great uncertainty for their future and that of their children. There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatever. Sadly there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.

Paragraph 29 – One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Everyday, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.

Paragraph 48 – The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effect of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.” [26] For example, the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources; water pollution particularly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; and rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go. The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems, which are insufficiently represented on global agendas. [27]

About Fr. EJ and his reflections…

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