In his new encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis asks us to care for our common home, Earth. He says this will take both inner conversion and global action. Take a little time each day this week to consider what our sister Earth needs from you. The numbers in parentheses refer to paragraphs in the encyclical. Type in Laudato Si to read the whole encyclical.
• TALK with each other. Such serious issues need to be “reframed and enriches again and again.” Attend a lecture. Read a book. Listen to a scientist. Open yourself to new ways to see. (16, 60, 185)
• Practice the three Rs. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Perhaps even add a fourth one — Restrain from buying more things. (22, 192)
• Can you walk instead of drive? Take the bus or subway? Share with someone going the same way? Talk to your children about their desire to pollute less. (26, 165)
• Don’t give in to denial or resignation. Think of the environmental issue that most worries you and pray to the Holy Spirit about it. “Come, Holy Spirit. Renew the face of the earth.” (14)
• 200 plants, insects, birds, and mammal becomes extinct each day. What dies when a new mall or casino is built? Are you in the coyote’s home or is he invading yours? Think about what our overbuilding is doing to the natural world. Decide where you will take a stand. (35)
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
• Add your own prayer.
This Saturday, in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero will be an official candidate for sainthood. He was martyred while saying Mass in March of 1980. Like Pope Francis, Romero wanted a poor church for the poor. Go to the internet to read his story. Let this message from him resonate in your heart today and give you courage.
Each one of you has to be God’s microphone. Each one of you has to be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is someone who has been baptized. Where is your baptism? You are baptized in your professions, in the fields of workers, in the market. Wherever there is someone who has been baptized. that is where the church is. There is a prophet here. Let us not hide the talent that God gave us on the day of our baptism and let us truly live the beauty and responsibility of being a prophetic people.
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[a] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. –James 1:22-25
Last week I sat with a heavy heart at work. Because of my spouse’s work at Lutheran World Relief, I traveled to Nepal and saw the beautiful land and met the fascinating people. I could picture, then, the devastating earthquake in a slightly more personal way. My spouse, busy raising awareness about and funds for the earthquake, then received news that the headquarters of LWR in Baltimore had sent staff home to avoid the rioting in the downtown area. The staff in the Minneapolis office kept plugging away, with their minds in both Baltimore and Nepal. It was a day when I let my heart feel the weight of the earthquake and the rioting. I grew tired. I played Ben Kyle’s song “Mercy” on repeat. I took deep breaths to counter feeling overwhelmed.
On a trip to the bathroom, I met Mavis. She introduced herself and invited me to come into a nearby room and see what she was doing. Mavis is part of a quilting group at church. Every Tuesday a few women get together and make quilts to donate to Lutheran World Relief. I told Mavis about my spouse and his work, that he was able to see a quilt distribution in India and see how happy it made refugees to receive something personal, colorful and warm after losing so much in their own personal lives. Mavis smiled.
“You know,” she said, “A lot of groups here at church are just fine. They get together and eat and talk, and that’s great. We do that, too. But I love that our group also works really hard and gets something done every week.”
Mavis gave me hope and pulled me out of my fog. There are things to be done. God wants to co-create with us. Mavis isn’t looking for recognition. Her works goes unnoticed, mostly. Yet she keeps on, week in and week out, using her gifts and her time making warm, personal, beautiful things to give to people who need them. On that Tuesday, when the world was hurting, I felt better knowing that Mavis and her crew were busy being doers of the word. They were making the world better, one stitch at a time.
What do I need to do to make it to heaven?
How do I be first?
I want one of my sons to sit on your right and one on your left in the kingdom of heaven.
Who is the greatest among us?
I’ve done all that, what am I missing?
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, the people just don’t quite get it. Frantically, they try to identify the hoops they need to jump through to assure their salvation. They want assurance. They want homework to check off. Heaven will be their gold star. Jesus keeps presenting tricky, paradoxical parables where things aren’t fair. Workers get the same wages without working the same amount as the others. It’s maddening. Jesus doesn’t answer our questions with what we want to hear.
I can’t blame these people in Matthew in the slightest, for I have similar instincts daily. We are all striving for the good life, now and later, and we can forget that God uses power, rewards, forgiveness and love differently than humans. It’s not about working harder and getting more gold stars on our chart. It’s not about being first in this world and checking to make sure God is watching. It’s frustrating because a lot of us kid ourselves into thinking we are pretty good at that game. But then, if we can sit in God’s love for just a second, we hear the good news:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” –Matthew 11:28-30
These verses are my learning edge. No one has ever had to tell me to work harder. Ever. I’m a prime candidate to perpetually fall into the spin cycle of work and life. I get frantic. And when I catch myself in franticness, I also know I am in a space of proving myself, of not feeling enough. It’s exhausting, this striving. My work is to stop working so hard from that place and feel the tempo of grace. It’s not a tempo that comes from laziness. It’s a tempo that comes from a deep place of peace, worthiness, and love. It’s recognizing the ill-fitting and learning to walk freely and lightly with Christ. I don’t have to walk on my knees for miles to prove that I am good. I just have to believe that God loves me and work joyfully from that place of peace.
I’m tired and worn out, and I know it is time to recover my life, to find real rest, and to once again attempt to learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
“The kingdom of God…will be given to people that produce its fruits.”
We humans are like all tenants of Earth and like those in Sunday’s parable. Our basest instincts are to draw everything to ourselves, the “owner” be damned. God has given us a precious vineyard/planet/home, teeming with life and extraordinary resources, but we have fouled our nest, mistaking God’s gifts for our possessions. Our greed has put our precious planet in grave danger.
If there is hope for us, it is in Jesus’ message write large across his life and death: whatever happens, love will not leave.