4th Sunday during the Season of Creation 2021– Renewing the Oikos of God 1
Introduction Today’s readings continue to warn us that our sinfulness is destroying our communities, the human family, and the supportive and nurturing home of us all - planet Earth. The readings also challenge us to be active and prophetic in our lives. To make a real and meaningful contribution to the New Creation in these times of ecological, social, economic, cultural and church crises. They also serve as a guide to us in how to pray: to ask for greater awareness of our “unknown faults” and of their grave seriousness, to ask for freedom from their destructive power no matter the cost.
In the reading from the Book of Numbers, God bestowed some of the Spirit that was on Moses on 70 elders who immediately began to prophesy. Two other elders who were not present at this gathering also received the Spirit and began to prophesy. Joshua was upset and wanted to stop them, but Moses was clear:
“Would that all the people of God were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow the Spirit on them all!”
The scriptural understanding of prophets is not of people who predict the future. Biblical prophets are inspired to speak God’s Word to the world of their time. Given the urgency and seriousness of the planetary crisis and the threats to Creation confronting us, Moses’ response needs to be ours today. May God bestow the Spirit on everyone, raising people up around the planet as prophets of creation. There is clearly urgent need for a global chorus of Ecological Prophets to speak out now as the destruction and dangers to Earth are escalating so rapidly. For a long time the prophetic voices of women in the bible and in the church has been omitted, muffled and misinterpreted. Without the contribution of such voices the imbalance, fragmentation and destruction continues. It is now urgent to listen to the prophetic voices of creation and women in ecosystems all around the globe. We must dare to turn what is happening when we sense the cry of Creation, in local and global places, and the cry of the girls, women and senior women, in order to discern what to do in response (Pope Francis, Laudato Si’)
The Laudato Sí Action Platform encourages that kind of universal prophetic response throughout the Catholic community. During the Laudato Sí Special Anniversary Year, a program was launched with public commitments from the various institutions that make up the Catholic Community globally. Leaders from seven sectors of the church have committed to beginning “a 7-year journey to total sustainability in the spirit of Laudato Sí.” And all are invited to join: families, parishes, diocese, schools, universities, hospitals, aged care facilities, businesses, farms, consecrated men and women, and organisations/agencies of the church. Today’s prayer for all of God’s people to be prophets provides a perfect context for asking ourselves how these institutions in our communities can respond more fully to live this commitment to care for our common home.
The Laudato Sí Goals launched in Laudato Si’ Week 2020
The reading from the Letter of James is a devastating, direct condemnation of accumulating wealth. It reflects the judgment widespread through the early centuries of Christianity that those who have more than they need are in effect stealing from those who don’t have the basics they need. In this age of unprecedented inequality between the 1% with unimaginable wealth and the vast majority of the human family, James’ words are a sharply appropriate prophetic warning.
Today it is clear that this warning applies not just to wealthy individuals or groups but also to the wealthy industrialized nations and corporations. Their development supported by fossil-fuel extraction and production has over the last century and a half have placed so much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that Earth’s systems have dangerously shifted. Widespread culture and systems of competitive consumption and accumulation have consolidated global wealth, creating what Pope Francis has called “throw-away societies.” The majority of creation, often exploited and controlled by the economic and political power of the wealthy nations, is becoming recognised as the poorest of the poor. Communities are desperately struggling to deal with the impacts of the changing climate and the constant flow of proponents intending to harm ecosystems.
Wealthy nations, communities and individuals have an urgent responsibility to address the crises their ways of living have created for the global community of life. These times call for a radical and urgent ecological conversion. A change from a ‘consume and throw away’ mindset of interconnectedness, relationality and our sights being firmly set on the common good. The path of valuing each persons dignity, which also values equal dignity and diverse paths for women, is intimately bound up in the same urgent need to restore our relationship with creation by valuing the integrity of each ecosystem and marveling in event the smallest grain of sand.
In the gospel passage, John plays the same role Joshua played with Moses. He tells Jesus that he and the others tried to stop someone who didn’t follow Jesus from driving out demons in his name. Like Moses, Jesus rejects exclusive ownership to the good works. He urges his disciples to respect those doing these works, “For whoever is not against us is for us.”
This message is important to remember as members of the Catholic community collaborate with and form networks with people of other faiths or no faith who do not share all the Church’s beliefs or moral positions. In recent years, Catholic agencies around the world have come under withering attack from members of their own church in some nations for collaborating on work for climate justice, ecological conversion and for protection of Earth’s ecosystems with those who do not share the Church’s official position on controversial ethical issues, such as abortion. In working with creation and the call to protect integral relationships, our position ought to be, in the words Jesus used, that whoever is not against us is for us. And our prayer could be, “Would that everyone were a prophet!”
In the latter section of the gospel, Jesus gives grave warning about how seriously we need to take our sins and what terrible punishment will lie ahead for teaching the young our sinful ways. In the context of the Season of Creation, those sins include the destructive patterns of living identified by Pope Francis in Laudato Sí and from so many other contemporary ecological prophets, religious and lay, women and men, children and Creation itself. Jesus’s warning demands we look at how we are living and how we are raising our children and how we are all learning to relate to Earth.
Jesus’s repeated reference to the horror of the fiery abyss, the unquenchable fire of Gehenna draws upon the imagery of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology. And his injunction to cut out of our lives what causes us to sin is vivid and effective. But the imagery of Gehenna is eerily contemporary when we see video of the massive wildfires destroying everything and everyone in their paths in Australia, the western United States, Siberia and the Arctic, Indonesia, and the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, to name just a few. Until the human family can embrace what Pope Francis calls an integral ecological conversion, can cut out of our lives the sinful, destructive patterns of living on Earth that are driving climate change, we will continue more and more to face the fiery abyss, the unquenchable flames that are the contemporary incarnation of Gehenna.
Are we willing to change lifestyles so that we stop participating in systems that constantly fragment God’s interconnected creation and make real our commitment to God’s gift of life here on Earth?
1. This homily draws from the Season of Creation Catholic Liturgical Guide produced by LISTEN
Jacqui Rémond is the Former National Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, the ecological agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (2007-2017) and Co-Founder of the Global Catholic Climate/ Laudato Si’ Movement.
Jacqui graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Education and Science in 1997, a Post Graduate Certificate in Leading Resilient Enterprises in 2014, and is currently undertaking a research doctorate at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Jacqui has worked as an Environmental Educator at Universities, TAFE colleges and Secondary Schools around Australia. Jacqui has spent many years developing partnerships and ecological conversion initiatives to enable the Catholic Church to better care for God’s Creation through advocacy, education, research and collaboration.
With a long history in environmental advocacy, Jacqui previously worked as the Coordinator of the Northern Australia Environment Alliance and served as Chair of Environs Kimberley. In 2006, Jacqui undertook training with Al Gore to become a ‘Climate Change Leader’ and presented Al Gore’s slide show throughout the Kimberley. Jacqui is mother of two children aged 10 and 14 and currently lives in Broome, in north Western Australia.
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