Greetings, SBT Readers!
In Catholic tradition, the first stage in seeking forgiveness is repentance, but we cannot repent if we are unaware of what we have done (or failed to do); nor can we avoid sins against creation in the future, if we continue to be oblivious. To help clarify what is sinful about our behaviors, Pope Francis cites Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew:
“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 its 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.” (#8)
“Well,” we might say to ourselves, smugly, “There’s no way I’m to blame for Global Warming and the rest of the world’s ills. Why! I even recycle newspaper and have stopped using plastic bags!” As long as this is our conviction, we will be poor ambassadors for Laudato Si’. We may point the finger at BP for its contamination of the Gulf and at Shell Oil for destroying much of the Niger Delta, but then we turn a blind eye to our own squandering of energy. We may decry unfair labor practices in Third World factories, but continue to purchase cheap clothing and electronics that have been made in the equivalent of slave labor camps. We express shock at the cruel treatment of animals in factory farms, but pile on the bacon and demand the beef! We lament the disappearance of bees and butterflies, but insist on spraying garden pests with a cocktail of Roundup and other chemicals….
Laudato Si’ turns upside down not only our attitudes towards Nature, but also our understanding of our place in the cosmos and of what it means to be human; it also invites us to embrace a spirituality that recognizes the Reign of God right here on Earth and not just in the afterlife. It is a revolutionary text which calls into question all our previous assumptions about the universe: we are no longer free to exploit the Earth and her resources, both animate and inanimate, but are called to careful stewardship of all life. The Earth, in fact, is a sacrament of God’s presence, a reality that both St. Francis and St. Bonaventure were aware of more than 800 years ago. In The Soul’s Journey into God, Bonaventure writes: “In relation to our position in creation, the universe itself is a ladder by which we can ascend into God” (60). To behold the beauty of creation, then, is the first step towards beholding the Beauty of God! (40-44).
Last week, in support of COP 26
, I invited readers to join me in doing ONE THING each day to reduce our carbon foot print. An inspiring response came from long-time reader, Ron Kolodziej:
"I've taught my family green earth attitudes, and valuing the efforts to conserve, utilize the composting, and cold-water approach to laundry; showers; wet dusting, etc.
Hand washing the pots and pans, the completed soaping/scrubbing water is spread out on the flowers/herbs to keep the insects from nesting. Dawn dish liquid soap is most avid to protect the plants and animals. Avoid the spray or insecticide chems.
Dead hearing aid batteries are generally discarded by the millions across the world. I have become conscious of the need to begin to speak at Hearing Loss Association; Adult Late Deafened Assoc.; Heath Human Services Dept. of the State Government to gather up the button size Zinc/Silver/ or Mercury Oxide batteries. The rechargeable Ion Batteries for disposable can be recycled at the local recycle center or Best Buy Recycle Bins.
The precious metal h/a batteries are contributing to the 'foot print' in creating the harvesting of metals, refine in factories with high heat, machines that require excessive power to mass production, packaging color, and plastic shrink wrap, and transporting to the warehouse to the individual stores or h/a dispensers.
When the dead batteries are no longer utilized, the landfill becomes a biohazard for gas emission.
The leaking of the metal or corrosion can seep into the soil and water thereby contaminants of the ecosystems of the vegetation, and animals-humans, and air we breathe are precious commodities.
The button batteries from spent h/a users can be gathered to bring to the jewelers for the refining of metals, but need to be secured with a participating jeweler. Landfill Directors can be made aware to provide a viable market to smelt down the precious metals to be once again refined metal to use for another future product."
Thank you, Ron, for sharing your thoughts with all of us. As you point out so well, care of the Earth involves every aspect of life, from washing dishes to disposing of hearing aid batteries! We may not be able to do EVERYTHING to save the planet, but we all have the power to bring about some change!
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums, while a poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples, he said,
"Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more to the treasury than all the other contributors. They all contributed from their surplus wealth, while she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
Decades ago, as a young mother with two preschoolers, I decided that I needed a spiritual director. Parenting was challenging, and juggling "home making" with part time teaching, editing, running a writers' group and volunteering at the local parish left me quite overwhelmed. I wanted to go deeper spiritually, but didn't have a guidebook for the journey. I'm not sure what I expected when I walked into a nearby convent for my very first spiritual direction session, but judgment fell quickly. My new spiritual director made one comment that I will never forget: "You give God the leftovers, don't you?" Her words marked the beginning and the end of our work together.
I remembered this experience when reading today's gospel of the poor widow. Very often, "The Widow's Mite" becomes a fund-raising narrative used to inspire financial generosity. Big donors tend to splash their altruism across the headlines -- or end up having streets, buildings, church halls and scholarships named after them. Go into any not-for-profit organization and you will find marble slabs commemorating lists of donors, living and deceased. There will also be chapels, great rooms, auditoriums, theatres, art galleries and hospital wings named after the donor or donor couple. A good fund raising campaign, however, assures even the poorest among us that their one dollar donation counts for something and might even be matched to triple its face value! From Public Radio to Presidential Campaigns, it has become customary to invite the tiniest of donations -- $3 for example-- so as to broaden the donor base. No gift is too small...
Yes, the widow's mite counts for something but, on a symbolic level, it applies to more than money. When we give out of our lack-- whatever it is-- our contribution is an act of generosity. Take the widow of Zarephath who shares her last handful of flour and bit of oil with Elijah, even though she and her son are about to starve to death. Or consider how many of us today are short of time but even if we can only be available for minutes here and there -- perhaps for an hour at the most-- we are still exhibiting generosity by giving what we don't have to spare.
So did the "left-overs" I offered God count for something? From the vantage point of looking back over more than 4 decades, I would say "Yes!" Today, when people come to me for spiritual direction and lament the little time they have for prayer, I am quick to say that God is more interested in the state of our hearts than in how long we spend on our knees. And if they are upset because they fall asleep while praying, I invite them to let their sleep be their prayer. Just as the "widow's mite" represents generosity of intention, whenever we share what we ourselves are short of, this must surely please the Divine Heart.