It was a bright June day when I heard a sister lament. The sister: she is named for light; we call her Lucy. At a community meeting, she stood at a podium and spoke into a microphone, her voice full of passion and frustration. She gave a State of the Union speech of sorts, yet in this case, the Union was the planet Earth.
As her exasperated voice vibrated through the room, images of pollution and charts of species decline glowed on bright screens. Her tone was intense, strong. Young and old, at least seven dozen Franciscan Sisters tried to hear the truth; we tried to love our sister, even though her message was tough to hear. Many of us squirmed uncomfortably as she, an ecologist and farmer, admitted that the picture of this planet is grim.
“I am finding it really hard to love homo sapiens right now!” she admitted while acknowledging that she is not free from playing a part in the environmental crisis either. “Earth would be better off without us. It could spit us off and have a better chance of surviving.”
I was reminded of Sister Lucy’s lament this week as I watched Greta Thunberg’s speech given to the United Nations. You can’t skip this video. Please watch it right now. Even if you’ve already watched it, watch it again.
Like Sister Lucy, Greta’s tone is appropriately intense and angry, for the State of the Earth is serious. “You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.”
Now, I can’t stop thinking about how to act, how to not fail children like Greta (she’s 16 years old!), how to not fail the Christian call to steward the gifts of creation. To not change our ways and care for the most vulnerable is evil, as she says. I feel challenged and shamed, in the best of ways. I feel compelled to truly repent and to change. To admit my sorrow and to grow.
It is time for repentance and conversion. All of humanity, rich and poor, privileged and marginalized, powerful and weak — we all must act if we want to save ourselves. We must change our hearts, our minds, our ways of living. We must change our behaviors and attitudes.
No matter what type of change we’re talking about, all change starts with a shift in perspective. It’s time for us to see that we’re not here to have dominion over any other life. Rather, our health and survival as a species are completely dependent on the health and survival of other species, on every ecosystem. We are completely interdependent on other life forms.
When Sister Lucy spoke to my community in June, I learned a new way to understand this. We are called to be ecocentric instead of egocentric. Our species is one among many. As other species become endangered and extinct, so could we. As the planet becomes healthy and balanced again, so will we.
We are not above any other species. Rather, we are part of the ecosystems and are totally dependent on other species. And the earth is suffering, and it’s very serious. I’ll save you the litany of horrors. (But you can read this article to learn the latest.)
The actions we take from here on out must be based on these facts. We must act with wild hope and faith that every person matters, that all of our actions have significance. We must trust that small acts contribute to the big picture. What is needed now are individual lifestyle changes and systemic changes. We must truly act locally and unite globally to change the political and economic systems that are oppressing our planet.
There are a lot of options, really. 101 things you can do to fight climate change are listed here. Here are a few that I’ve decided on.
Eat differently. For some, like myself, that’s becoming vegetarian. For others, it’s eating less meat, or wasting less overall. Others opt to grow one’s own food or buy from local farmers. All of us must do something, though. “We need a radical transformation — not incremental shifts — towards a global land-use and food system that serves our climate needs,” Ruth Richardson in Toronto, Canada, the executive director at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, has declared. Clearly, it is essential we understand how global agriculture truly works and eat in ways that are more sustainable.
Travel less. This is the hard one for me because I tend to live a fairly itinerant Franciscan life. Yet, every time I calculate my carbon footprint, it is apparent to me that if I stop using planes and cars then I’d drastically reduce the harm I inflict on other species.
Stop purchasing bottled water and soft drinks. I like flavored and carbonated waters as much as the next person. But, 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to manufacture water bottles every year. And, as it becomes more apparent that plastic recycling is mostly a myth, I am especially challenged to stop using all plastic. From now on, I will go nowhere without my refillable water bottle. It’s one simple thing I can do.
Join climate advocacy organizations, such as Oxfam,Greenpeace, or Catholic Climate Covenant. These organizations need your financial support and your participation. Join them in the advocacy events they organize in order to act for systemic change and help protect the planet and the poor. You can easily write your U.S. senator about supporting the International Climate Accountability Act (S.1743) here.
No matter how we respond to the prophetic laments of people like Sister Lucy and Greta Thunberg, let us act with love.
Our life depends upon it.
God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out. O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love, and beauty. Praise be to you! Amen. (Pope Francis, Laudato Sí)
What we are now; what we will be. What has not yet been revealed; what we already know.
The First Letter of John speaks to our present identity and eternal destiny.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
The fulfillment of God’s promises, the reign of God, is “not yet” and “already present.”
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk 1:15) Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus stood in the synagogue in Nazareth and announced the prophesy of Isaiah “to bring glad tidings to the poor … to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord,” and he said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk 4:18-21)
Throughout his ministry Jesus fulfilled this promise through his teaching and healing and liberation from every form of oppression. Even in his death, God raised him, showing the power of God even over death itself.
Now the disciples, having received the gift and power of the Holy Spirit, continue this ministry of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter stands trial for invoking the name of Jesus to heal a man who could not walk (Acts 4:9), and later Peter heals Aeneas, who was paralyzed, and he raises Tabitha from the dead, (Acts 9:32-42)
It seems that what John writes about – “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” – is already present in these disciples. They encountered the Risen Lord, it transformed them, and now they are like him. They too are fulfilling the vision of Isaiah to heal and liberate.
So what about us? Have we too received the power of the Spirit and continue these ministries of healing and even raising from the dead? Is “being like him” only a future promise or also a present reality?
What have you seen and heard and experienced that indicates the fulfillment of God’s reign of justice and peace? Maybe, at times, it is not as obvious as the healings we hear about in Acts. But perhaps the healing and raising that we do experience is no less real or significant.
I think of friends and family who have nearly died or even had near-death experiences and lived to tell the story; of people who survived cancer, and of people who did not but whose presence continues to be felt; of people whose lives have been healed and saved through Alcoholics Anonymous, or social service agencies; of experiences where, even for a moment, loneliness or despair is lifted. I think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which for me and many others is a place of powerful encounter with the mercy of God, a God who forgives and gives new life.
Yes, it is true that we await the day of fulfillment, the “new heaven and a new earth,” when God will “make all things new” and “wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain.” (Rev 21:1-5) But we also experience signs of this fulfillment today, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ.
“We are God’s children now.”
Note from the editor:This blog post is a version of a homily that Father Luke Hansen, SJ, preached April 22, 2018 (4th Sunday of Easter, Year B) in Rome.
Originally from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Luke Hansen, SJ, has been a friend of Sister Julia’s since 2004 when they met at an airport on their way to serve in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in California. Passionate about justice and peacemaking, much of his experience in ministry has been centered on serving adults and adolescents who are incarcerated. He now is studying in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University. (Photo credit: www.jesuits.org)
“When you eat a meal, thank the farmer who harvested it and think about their livelihood. Food is something that connects all of us as a community, wherever we live.” – Oxfam Fact Sheet
This statement is from a farmer and my sister, Ellen Walsh-Rosmann. It helps me remember that something as basic as eating food and sharing it with community influences how I contribute to the reign of God.
I am from a food family. I grew up in a rural, agricultural, Christian community that taught me to understand that caring for Earth and neighbor is an issue of social justice. Our neighbor is the land as are all creatures large and small that also claim the land as home. As a child I would help…
This is an ecumenical and global day of prayer. World-wide, Christians are united in prayer for the healing of this sacred home and our Sister, Mother Earth. Out of love for her, we pray in hope and thanksgiving.
Here is one of the particular prayers we are praying:
A Christian prayer in union with creation By Pope Francis, Laudato Si
Father, we praise you with all your creatures. They came forth from your all-powerful hand; they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love. Praise be to you!
Son of God, Jesus, through you all things were made. You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother, you became part of this earth, and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory. Praise be to you!
Holy Spirit, by your light you guide this world towards the Father’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail. You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good. Praise be to you!
Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you. Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you!
We pray in joy and wonder.
We pray in thanksgiving and praise of the beauty that God has made throughout the universe
We pray that we can be better stewards of the gifts that God has given us.
We pray that we will have the graces and courage to be in right relationship with all of creation.
May God help us all to integrate the important and challenging teachings contained within Laudato Siinto our daily lives.
soil slides aside
allowing an emergence
flower seed breaks, becoming
resurrected over the reasons and chances
that it might not make it
or shouldn’t come
alive it rises, a new life
a new colorful character in the neighborhood
sustained by the power of the sun
Earth knows how to welcome the stranger
room is made, food provided
a warm loving home to the foreigner
yes to new life, yes to self-sharing
praise for Earth knowing and role modeling
it’s actually quite natural to boldly give
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. –John 20:19b-20a
Christ is still showing us His wounds.
Christ is the energy of God alive and arisen in our midst. In my life, one of the most profound ways I experience that Christ energy is by communing with creation. The peace of Christ beats with the rhythm of an ancient drum in the depths of the woods and in the heart of the ocean. And earth is hurting. Like our brother Jesus, we have harmed the earth with our violence and sin.
Two examples: As highlighted in this film, the inhabitants of the Carteret Islands just north of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, are running for their lives while their island is overtaken by the rising ocean waters. Climate change is causing the icebergs to melt at rates faster than humans have ever known. Christ is wounded among us.
Here’s a video highlighting what these wounds look like:
When Christ showed his wounds to his disciples he said “Peace be with you.”
As Christ shows his wounds to us, He also says “Peace be with you.”
We are privileged and blessed to be able to nurse the wounds of our earth, our Christ, during this holy sacred time. We can stop can using plastic, we can reduce our carbon footprint, we can teach others the truth and we can clean up the mess we have made. We can share the Christ of peace and be instruments of healing and blessing.
Let’s have mercy, Christ have mercy, peace be with you. Amen!
Last week I was invited to speak as a panelist at the National Religious Vocations Conference in Franklin, Ill., and offered this prompt: “Could you describe two key aspects of your faith life right now? In what ways do you feel called by God?”
Directly following that event I joined my community-mate and fellow beekeeper, Regina, in harvesting our first batch of honey from the two hives of bees we’ve been tending since early spring.
The fact that I would be sharing in the bounty of the bees after responding to that prompt seemed a coincidence of the providential kind. It shaped my answer. My relationship with the bees is part of my relationship with a farm, which is part of an experiment that arose from a growing desire to participate in healthy food-systems. That desire grew from a slow wakening realization that what we eat can be life-giving or destructive to both our bodies and the earth. My well-being is dependent on the well-being of the earth. The earth’s well-being is dependent on the quality of my relationship with it. Interdependence: a key aspect of my faith, and a calling.
I went to the conference with the egotistical assumption that I had a challenge for these religious men and women gathered to learn how to connect with youth. I would remind them of the gospel call to justice, attentiveness to the poor, relationships of nonviolence with neighbors, enemies and the earth. Before speaking I had the opportunity to join them for lunch. I learned of their various missions and ministry which ranged from immigration to prison to spiritual direction. They tended to a broad spectrum of needs, and reminded me of how quietly some serve, how necessarily they narrow their focus in order to live in accordance with the calling they’ve received.
The harvest is great and the laborers are few. I often find myself dwelling on this phrase that Jesus shared with his followers – whispering it resentfully when I see the work piled before me – whether it’s dishes to wash, weeds to pull, corrupt systems to confront or guests to serve – entertaining the idea that because no one is tackling the same task I am they are not heeding God’s call, not laboring in the field. The harvest is great indeed, extending beyond my own vision. If we all focused on the row of carrots, who would bring in the corn? If we all risked arrest to make a statement, who would prepare a meal for the hungry? If all were busy feeding, who would ask why they hunger?
I am almost painfully conscious of the way the many needs are weaved together: humanity’s poor health to the way we disrespectfully garner the energy of the earth; the accumulation of wealth to the deprivation of the poor; the obsession with security to the abuse of the other. I am conscious, too, that when I try to engage with every angle of these issues, I am stretched thin, little able to support the weight of each. Conversely, when I wear blinders that allow me to focus only on one angle, I am blinded from the intricate relationship between the part and the whole.
This is a lesson the Trinity is continually, quietly teaching – a whole is made of many parts – to be holy is to be whole. We depend on one another and on other living things. Every action we take affects the earth and those who inhabit it. We are one mystical body of interdependent parts. Any time we isolate ourselves, any time I am only Amy, only human, then I am diminishing other people and living beings and I am diminished; then I am not holy. What is actually me, wholly me, is also you, is also the colony of bees we’re sharing honey with, is also men indefinitely detained in Guantanamo, is also the soil that gives and receives life as the bodies of plants, animals and people rise from and fall to it.
The main problems, apparently, are due to the way we farm more than the way we distribute the food. We need to remember, though, that our consumer culture influences the way things are farmed. What we buy, cook and eat impacts what farmers grow and how they grow it.
No one wants anyone to starve to death. Christians understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Eucharist is a Blessed Sacrament that unites us together as a body of Christ. Farming, cooking and eating are very sacred, holy acts. These basic, ordinary, life-giving acts are powerful and rooted in the Gospel.
We the people, have some good, God-given power. We don’t have to despair that things will only get worse for humanity just because some scientists have predicted that they will. The Gospel gives us great solutions (feed the hungry, share the loaves and fishes, pray, trust, listen, include everyone and invite others to our tables) and we are graced to be real instruments of peace while we live the Good News.
Plus, as stated in the NPR story, the scientists have suggestions too:
“First, stop cutting down forests to grow crops. Second, instead of that, focus on land that’s already being used to grow food but isn’t very productive… Third, use water more efficiently, also fertilizer. Fourth, in rich countries, don’t throw away so much food. In poor countries, keep it from spoiling before it gets to the people who need it. Fifth, and this may be the most controversial thing in this paper, eat less meat.”
Plus, it’s harvest season- the season of abundance- so we can be grateful for the great labor of farmers and how they bless us all.
I am excited to be spending some time on my younger sister’s farm this weekend. She’s a great, young, organic farmer and food activist in Iowa who is modeling for all of us how we can work for change in these systems. In celebration of her great witness, she has even been featured in the Oxfam World Food Day campaign.
When I return to the city from the farm on Sunday I hope to carry with me some good fruits and veggies. I’ll be using my favorite cookbook, The More-with-Less Cookbook, to prepare meals for the next week and avoid buying any extra food.
I was thinking it might be nice, though, if we did a little recipe sharing right here on this blog. What dishes are the rest of you planning to cook up using your fall harvests? What cooking tips do you have for me? I’d really like a yummy, non-conventional way to cook up a big pie-pumpkin.
Sharing recipes is fun because it builds community. For me, one of the great joys of eating is the experience of building relationships. With every bite we can celebrate the relationships we have with other parts of God’s creation and with one another. Together we get to work to create the world, the meals, and the unity that God intended.
While we do all this together, let’s remain mindful that we need to be able to live within all extremes and limitations. We need to balance. We need to love and help everyone- no matter how hungry they are- know the goodness of abundance. As we eat, let’s be grateful and celebrate Life.
St. Paul did it quite well, and so can we:
Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.
My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen. –Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20