“Repent” is the word that is at the heart of today’s Gospel. Scripture scholars say that when Jesus uses the word “repent,” he used a word “metanoia” that had the intention of a complete change and conversion in the manner and way a person lived. This is why the disciples whom he called were invited to leave everything and begin a new life with Christ.
As we begin a new decade, and I hear this word “repent” in 2020, I cannot help but think that the change in life and conversion that all of us are being called to is in regard to the environment and the way in which we all treat our common home; or what both St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Francis have called, our “sister earth.” There is perhaps no more important issue facing all of humanity today then the environment and the way in which we treat our common home.
Pope Francis has written a beautiful document that speaks about the urgency and importance of all persons changing the way they relate to the environment and the way in which we care for our common home. This document is called “Laudate si.” It presents the Church’s teaching on the environment and is a document that all Christians should read. Despite the fact that I have preached on it several times since it came out in 2015, I am constantly being asked why Catholics do not know anything about it. For that reason, I would suggest that everyone read it. It can be found at: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
An important part of what conversion calls all of us to is an awareness of the ways in which we can make a difference around the world. This past summer, our parish went “BLUE” and we stopped serving bottled water. This is just a small step towards changing the way we relate to our environment. Today after Mass, Sister Jean Laehy of the Sisters of Saint Joseph will speak to us about a petition Development and Peace will ask us to consider signing next week to protect the Amazon from mining and being plowed under for farming purpose. Many have called the Amazon the lungs of the earth. Its protection is vital for the preservation of our environment. While this is just one issue among the many complex issues facing our environment, it is an example of one of the many in which action is required.
In order that I might leave you with a sample of what you will find in Pope Francis beautiful document, Laudate si, I would like to conclude by sharing with you three paragraphs with which he concludes chapter four, on “Integral Ecology.” They read:
- What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal. When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results. But if these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.
- Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.
- Our difficulty in taking up this challenge seriously has much to do with an ethical and cultural decline which has accompanied the deterioration of the environment. Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification. We see this in the crisis of family and social ties and the difficulties of recognizing the other. Parents can be prone to impulsive and wasteful consumption, which then affects their children who find it increasingly difficult to acquire a home of their own and build a family. Furthermore, our inability to think seriously about future generations is linked to our inability to broaden the scope of our present interests and to give consideration to those who remain excluded from development. Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting. Hence, “in addition to a fairer sense of intergenerational solidarity there is also an urgent moral need for a renewed sense of intragenerational solidarity”.
For more information on Development and Peace and the petition to protect the Amazon, please visit: https://www.devp.org/en/campaign/forourcommonhome/action
In 2020, may we all hear the call to change and care for our common home.
Fr. Michael McGourty
Pastor—St. Peter’s Church, Toronto