Last month, John Dorner, our team member and volunteer with the Archdiocese of Ottawa, was invited to provide a reflection on the encyclical of Pope Francis entitled Laudato Si’ – On Care of our Common Home. This was for Kitchissippi United Church. Below are some highlights from the reflection.
So, what is an encyclical? An encyclical is a letter about a critical issue that is sent to all the Catholic bishops and pastors in the world, and which is posted on the Vatican website so that it is accessible to everyone. This encyclical is different. It is very special in that Pope Francis is actually reaching out to everyone! As he states in the encyclical, “I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone since the environmental changes we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all… Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.”
Furthermore, as expressed in the scripture reading, “The Lord God took the man and put him the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” As a rabbi once told me, in Hebrew the word used in this quote is “shomrah” which means to protect and safeguard. This is so different from how mankind has interpreted the Book of Genesis, especially the part where God granted mankind “dominion” over the earth. God gave us dominion as people of God, made in God’s image. As people of God, dominion respects our responsibilities towards our Creator, our neighbour, and all of creation. We have dominion from the framework of love and respect for all life, and not of “domination” of the earth with unbridled exploitation of nature.
Listen to the words of St. Paul to Timothy – “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” In the encyclical, Pope Francis focuses on how individual greed and excessive consumerism have a highly negative impact on our earth and on the poor. Do we hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor when we purchase more than we need, when we waste our food, when we send recyclable and compostable waste to landfill, when we waste energy, when we purchase products that are polluting the earth? In the second reading St. Paul says to Timothy, “As
for those who in the present age are rich, … they are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so th
at they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
For our culture, that requires both personal and community conversion to a way of life that involves sacrifice, simplicity and love of God and neighbour. In the words of Pope Francis, “Living simply means actively caring for the environment both in our homes and in our parishes through energy conservation, the protection of water resources, a reduction in consumption patterns, reduction in carbon footprints, and a reduction and proper treatme
nt of the waste we produce. We find joy in having lifestyles that reflect serene harmony, simplicity, enjoyment of time with others, and the development of our gifts including the arts, our contact with nature, and our service to others (223).”
Jesus said to his followers “…Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these
things will be given to you as well.” That means we must put God first in our lives. In an interview, Pope Francis said, “Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression, and instead living a life of service to others and in favour of the common good.” Ecological conversion means living the Gospel. As we strive for the kingdom of God we need not worry about earthly matters as God is with us, or as Pope Francis stated, “The Creator does not abandon us.” (19)
Consistent with the tradition of indigenous peoples, [Pope Francis] recognizes the interconnectedness of all life on earth, which he refers to as integral ecology. He identifies the need for international agreements and government legislation to address climate change and other environmental crises, such as the loss of biodiversity and the oceans.