“ Our Sister Earth cries out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.
The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.
It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected. Any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.”
What can we do as we swelter through the heat these days? We wonder in a world worried about its future. Can we do anything? Let’s not be afraid of big ideas. Why not think big?
In September 2015 world leaders at the United Nations agreed to work for 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The goals aim to “eliminate poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change, while ensuring no one is left behind. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while also tackling climate change and environmental protection.” https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/
The 11th goal of Sustainable Development is “making cities safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by 2030. Sustainability differs from city to city, but quality of life means among other things, adequate housing, work and employment, clean water and air, access to public transportation.
I’m always surprised at the way our current Mass readings throw light on what’s happening now. Pope Francis is ending his visit to our country. He’s hard to miss, a genuine celebrity, tying up traffic in three major cities and drawing immense crowds and media coverage. If he were running in our presidential elections, he might get elected.
He’s a leader, no doubt. But look at the way leadership is described in today’s readings: a kind of leadership Francis exemplifies. Our reading from the Book of Numbers (Nm 11,25-29) says the Lord blesses Moses with power, but also takes “ some of the spirit that was on Moses and bestows it on the seventy elders.” Then, when two others, not of the seventy, seem to have that same spirit, some tell Moses to stop them. They don’t belong to our group.
But Moses wont stop them. Are you jealous? he asks. “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”
The gospel from Mark (Mk 9, 38-48) offers a similar situation. Some are exercising a power like Jesus and his followers try to stop them. Let them be, Jesus says, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Whoever is working for the same good cause is working with us.
The lesson, of course, is that a real leader doesn’t want power for himself or herself. Power is meant to serve all. “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” Moses says. In his strong address to our Congress the other day, Francis called them to be real leaders and work for the common good. Work together, not in a spirit of partisanship, or for your own gain, but for the good of all and for the good of the world, he said. Don’t be afraid to face the big challenges before us.
Of course, we might stop there and say we need better leaders, better politicians; let’s pray for a good president and a good congress that can work together for the good of us all.
But our readings seem to suggest that power is not just in great leaders like Moses and Jesus. We all have power which we’re called to use for the common good. The same partisanship and selfishness, the same lack of vision we complain about in our leaders can also be present in us.
The pope addressed our bishops before he met with congress and he told them too to be good shepherds of the gifts of God. “It’s wrong,” he said to look the other way or to remain silent.” They need to face the many challenges before them.
That challenge is addressed to us too.
Addressing congress, the pope pointed to four Americans who worked for the common good: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Only one of those was a politician, an elected leader. The rest were people who served society using their unique gifts.
So it was not just politicians in Congress or bishops or representatives of the nations at the UN the pope challenged these last few days. He was challenging all of us to face the world today, to confront the issues before us, to work together, to follow the Golden Rule. “Do onto others what you would have them do to you.” That’s what God wants us all to do.
On the Van Wyck Expressway from Kennedy Airport warnings are flashing that leaders from all over the world are coming to the United Nations. The Letter to Timothy we’re reading this week tells us to pray for them:
“First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.”
The reading from the Book of Esra (Esra 1,1-6) reminds us how important authorities are in fulfilling God’s plan. Cyrus, the King of Persia (Modern Iran), moved by God, issues a decree letting the Jews return to Jerusalem after about 70 years so they can rebuild their city and its temple. It’s not about a human homecoming; their return furthered on the plan of God.
Our reading makes the point that God moves the heart of King Cyrus. God is not only the creator of the world but its real ruler. He’s king, the one with power to change directions as he wills, and he can even change powerful kings like Cyrus.
Reading the Old Testament helps us remember that God acts in the real world of human affairs and creation itself. God’s action is mysterious, beyond our thoughts and ways. God’s kingdom will come, but not according to the calculations of pundits or prognosticators, or “the wise and clever.” We may believe mistakingly that it’s all politics and human motives and natural causes, but “God is king,” the Old Testament proclaims.
To know God’s activity we have to look into “the signs of the times.” Cyrus told the Jews they could return to their homeland and rebuild, but they had to take him up on his offer. Some did, who saw it as a sign from God – “everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so.” Some didn’t, for a number of reason: they liked where they were, they feared being deceived, they lost faith. But faithful Jews took the journey back.
The Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World offers a powerful invitation to respond hopefully and generously today to “the signs of the times.” Our times are not without them. A new Eucharistic prayer prays for the grace to accept that invitation:
“Grant that all the faithful of the church, looking into the signs of the times by the light of the faith, may constantly devote themselves to the service of the gospel.”
“Keep us attentive to the needs of all that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of your kingdom.”
Let’s pray for peace in Syria, Certainly “signs of the times” are out there. May we be inspired by God to look for them.
To hear the audio of today’s homily please select the audio below:
Religious education programs begin in most parishes this month. Many of the programs involve young people, of course, but we are all called to grow in faith, no matter how old we are.
Unfortunately, adults often see faith as something you learn as a child and that’s it.
The Catholic writer Frank Sheed once said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.
As children we may see the world with two eyes; but as adults we may see the world only with the eye of experience, losing the focus that faith gives, another dimension. Faith helps us to see.
Jesus said to his disciples “you are all learners.” Not only children learn, all of us learn. We’re lifelong learners, lifelong believers, even till the end.”
I was talking to a man last week who said “You know, I go to church pretty regularly; I try to live a good life, but I would like to know Jesus.”
I told him that’s what we’re trying to do all our lives–to know Jesus.
I told him to get a good bible, like the New American Bible, and start reading it. Listen to the readings in church that tell us what Jesus said and did. This is a time he reveals himself to us, as one of the Eucharist prayers says it so well:
“You are indeed Holy and to be glorified, O God, who love the human race and always walk with us on the journey of life. Blessed indeed is your Son, present in our midst when we are gathered by his love, and when as once for the disciples, now for us, he opens the scriptures and breaks the bread.”
From what we know of Jesus, he bravely faced the issues of his time and its questions and challenges.Knowing Jesus, then, means that we face the issues and challenges of our time as bravely as we can.
Let me point out one of today’s challenges– our changing climate.Last Tuesday evening at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change,the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin brought a message from Pope Francis.
He said that after thirty years of study we have to admit there are critical days ahead. We know that “the entire international community is part of one interdependent human family…There is no room for the globalization of indifference, the economy of exclusion or the throwaway culture so often denounced by Pope Francis,”
Our faith “warns agains the risk of considering ourselves the masters of creation. Creation is not some possession that we can lord over for own pleasure; nor, even less, is it the property of only some people, the few: creation is a gift, it is the marvelous gift that God has given us, so that we will take care of it and harness it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude” (Pope Francis, General Audience, 21 May 2014).
It’s not just a matter of some technical changes like emission reductions, the cardinal continued. We need “ to change our lifestyles and the current dominant models of consumption and production.”
Knowing Jesus means living as Jesus would if he were with us today.
We’re all learners. The consoling thing is that we can start anywhere, anytime to know Jesus. The gospel readings for this week and last week tell us that. The workers going into the vineyard and two sons in today’s reading tell us the invitation is always there, so let’s take it.