Mother Earth, Brother Son
(Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev.21:10-14, 22-23; Jn.14:23-29)
I love fish and chips! Or at least, I used to. I’m not quite so sure anymore, after learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s an island of plastic rubbish the size of Texas, floating in the north Pacific.
We all know that plastic is everywhere: in our homes, cars, clothes, in packaging, toys and water bottles. There are even microbeads of plastic in some toothpastes and skin cleansers. Some of it goes down our drains, but much of it ends up in our waterways and oceans. [i]
Sadly, plastic doesn’t go away. It just breaks down into ever smaller particles and enters the food chain. Fish eat the microplastic, and we eat the fish. Ugh!
This week the Church is celebrating Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, which he released in 2015. He addresses it to ‘every person living on the planet’ and asks the question, ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?’
It’s not just about the environment, he says. The question is deeper than that. He asks, ‘What’s the purpose of our life in this world? What’s the goal of our work and all our efforts?’ And ‘What does the earth need from us?’
Pope Francis says that unless we deal with the deeper issues of our world, all our ecological efforts won’t come to much.
The name ‘Laudato Si’ means ‘Praise be to you’, and comes from St Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun. It reminds us all that the earth is our common home, which is ‘like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us’.
Pope Francis says that too many people have forgotten that ‘we ourselves are dust of the earth (Gen.2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters’.
‘Now’, he says, ‘this earth, mistreated and abused, is lamenting, and its groans join those of all the forsaken of the world’.
He invites us all to listen to these groans and to ‘change direction’ by taking on the beauty and accepting responsibility for ‘caring for our common home’.
Pope Francis recognises that some people really do care about our planet, so not all is lost. And although others are capable of the worst, he says, they’re also capable of change, of choosing what is good, and making a new start.
Everything in our world is connected, he says, and there’s a close link between the fragility of our planet and those who are poor.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking with his disciples just after the Last Supper. He knows he will die soon, and that his disciples are scared. ‘Don’t be troubled or afraid,’ he says to them. ‘My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. A peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.’
The peace that Jesus offers us isn’t the same as worldly peace. Worldly peace typically is temporary, fragile and conditional. In many places, peace is simply the absence of trouble and war, and it only exists because of fear or force imposed from outside. But that’s not real peace.
Jesus’ peace is different. It comes from within. It’s free, unconditional and eternal. And it’s all-encompassing, because it’s available to all of God’s creation.
St Francis of Assisi dedicated his life to finding the peace of Christ. He found it by abandoning the worldly life, by following in Jesus’ footsteps and by discovering that all of God’s creation actually belongs to one universal family.
He learnt that, along with God and Mother Nature herself, we are all members of the same cosmic family.
St Francis wrote about this in his Canticle of the Sun in 1224, when he was almost blind and living in a small hut near Assisi. In lyrical language, he expresses his profound love for God and all his creation, including ‘Mother Earth’, ‘Brother Fire’ and ‘Sister Moon’. [ii]
Twenty years earlier, when he was in his 20s, St Francis knelt before a cross in the rundown chapel of San Damiano. He was surprised to hear that cross speak to him. ‘Francis,’ it said, ‘rebuild my house. As you see, it is all being destroyed.’ [iii]
This was a pivotal moment in his life, and in the life of our world. He devoted the rest of his days to repairing the Church, both physically and spiritually.
Today, we’re all being asked to help repair ‘our common home’. This, too, could be a pivotal moment.
Mother Earth is suffering, and so are too many of our neighbours.
can you do to make this world a better place?