Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
“What did you go into the desert to see?” Jesus asked the question of all those who were traveling to the Jordan River in order to see and hear the prophet, John the Baptist. He was a sight to behold dressed in camel skin; and he ate nothing but locusts and honey. So when Jesus offered possibilities, like soft robes, he knew that was not what the seekers went to the river to see.
When people began to follow Jesus, we might wonder what they expected, too. Many people were hoping for the messiah to appear, but the expectations around what a messiah would do varied widely. Some expected a messiah to restore Israel to political glory by overthrowing the Roman government. Clearly those expectations were not fulfilled in Jesus.
“What did you go into the desert to see?” His question is as vital to us as it was to his listeners two thousand years ago. When we begin Advent— when we open our Bibles— when we pray each day—what are we expecting? When I was a child, I thought that God might fulfill all my desires and I prayed for all kinds of things that God did not deliver. Clearly, my expectations were off base and I needed to adjust my expectations. As adults we can fall into a similar trap, expecting God to deliver nothing but gifts like Santa Claus.
When we listen to the Isaiah today, we hear the prophet tell Israel that God will bring them back rejoicing. The desert and dry land will blossom and all will rejoice. But notice what else the prophet says: “Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are frightened, ‘Be strong, do not fear!” In their waiting for God to act, the people were supposed to strengthen their fidelity to God, make firm their commitment to walk in their covenant with God. When they did this, then God was sure to come and free them.
For Christians who believe that God calls us to restore the earth and heal our land, this reading has special appeal. Isaiah tells us that “the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom”—a far cry from the condition of the environment at this moment. In this passage from Isaiah, there is a promise from God to make our Earth produce abundantly, but we must do our part. We are the ones who must be strong in our commitment to live sustainably; we must strengthen our efforts to move public policy to environmental strength. We cannot sit back to moan and groan that things aren’t going our way. No! We must renew our efforts and sustain our commitment, our covenant with God to honor creation. When Jesus asks, “What did you go into the desert to see?” we must not be like children expecting a “Santa Claus god” to undo our centuries of Earth destroying behavior like magic. We need to know that we are in partnership with God. This planet has been handed over to us for safekeeping and our faith tells us that it doesn’t belong to us. Earth belongs to God and we are to act as good stewards.
We would do well to reverse the question and ask God, “What do you expect to see when you look at Earth?” The answer from scripture is simple: “a well-tended garden.” If we are able to pour our hearts and souls into the work needed to restore and heal the Earth, then we can look forward to obtaining the joy and gladness as the sorrow and sighing flees from our planet as promised in Isaiah comes to pass.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
When I read the readings for this Sunday in Advent I couldn’t help thinking, “Well, John the Baptist really took his gloves off.” This gospel passage is not one for the faint of heart. In it we hear John insulting the leaders of the lay sanctity movement, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. It probably doesn’t hit our ears in the same way as it did in the first century, but John was essentially calling these leaders bastard children of snakes! Oh, my. The Pharisees and Sadducees were people who prided themselves on keeping the Mosaic Law in all its minutia and living pious lives. Being called bastards of snakes would really have angered them.
Nevertheless, John points out to them, that their piety has to be more than show and more than a veneer. Love of God must be at the core of our being directing all of our relationships and activities. John is calling everyone to true repentance. That is to say, he wanted his listeners to look deep into their own hearts to see what really guides their decisions and actions. If it is less than genuine love of God and neighbor, then beware: the ax is already laid at the root.
John’s call to repentance is universally applicable, even for us twenty-one centuries later. Who among us can honestly say that we’ve done our very best at all times? Who among us can honestly report that we have loved everyone that God has put into our lives? Rather, isn’t the truth that we’ve picked and chosen whom we will love and for whom we will do good? Haven’t we grown complacent about many issues? Have we become like the Pharisees and Sadducees in sorting our recyclables, all the while wasting energy, increasing our carbon output or being engaged in excessive consumption? This Sunday of Advent is a good time to ponder the question of excessive consumption when we are busy about preparing gifts for everyone on our lists. We are tempted by all kinds of advertising to buy-buy-buy, substituting purchases for genuine love and friendship.
The final section of the gospel reading today adds special emphasis for the need to repent now, not later. John tells us that Jesus is coming and when he comes, he will have a winnowing fan in his hand, ready to gather the wheat and burn the chaff. John came for repentance, but Jesus will come in judgment. He will sort us like the farmer sorts the grains of wheat from the chaff that blows in the wind. Will we be solidly holy, like the wheat grains, so that he will gather us to himself or will we be all show with no substance to our love so that we are thrown into the fire?
This Sunday is not an easy one to act on. We have habits to overcome and defenses to protect ourselves from real change. The pay-off for real repentance is spelled out in the reading from Isaiah today. Justice will come on the Earth, peace will reign, and there will no longer be any threat of violence to fear. Jesus’ birth brought about the beginning of this Kingdom of God. His second coming will usher in the fullness of God’s reign. Will we be ready?
Let us all be grateful for the warning John the Baptist gave us. Let us examine ourselves to see how well we have loved our neighbors, human and other creatures. Then let’s set about setting all of our relationships right and so become ready for the judgment that most certainly will come.
The Green Nun's Favorite Links
- Audubon Society
- Carbon Footprint Calculator
- Catholic Coalition on Climate Change
- E Magazine
- Earth Literacy Masters Program at SMW College
- Environment California
- Environmental Defense Fund
- Forest Ethics
- Friends of the Earth
- Global Climate Change Report
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Ocean Conservancy
- Pacific Environment
- Sierra Club
- The Nature Conservancy
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- ► 2011 (32)