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, January 29, 2011
Count your blessings! I am sure that we have heard this expression countless times, especially when we hear about misfortune. When we hear “count your blessings” I wonder how many of us say to ourselves, “Okay. My blessings include being out of work, having poor health, and being looked down on.” Hardly! No, we usually start listing everything that is going well in our lives.
When Jesus started listing who was blessed, He included people that we don’t normally see as blessed: He included the poor, those grieving, the despised and the hungry. He seems to have chosen the very ones that we might think of as having misfortune, bad luck or being cursed. They hardly sound blessed. If we take time to ponder the beatitudes further we can do mental gymnastics trying to make sense of these blessings called “beatitudes.”
Even if we bothered to do the mental gymnastics required to understand them, we probably wouldn’t really understand what Jesus meant in the beatitudes. No, understanding Jesus’ social context is crucial to understanding the gospel. So, let’s look at the beatitudes. Two that I’d like to focus our attention on this Sunday are the ones that say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” and “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Mourning and fasting were signs of social protest in Jesus’ day. Like those who march on the capitol or line up along our streets with signs to protest various inequities, social protest was and is a powerful way of using strength in numbers while denouncing social evils. In first century Israel, people protested by fasting and weeping publicly, demonstrating their unhappiness with social evils. Jesus proclaimed such protesters worthy of esteem. As a matter of fact, He proclaims that God will comfort these protesters and deliver justice to them, even if society refuses to address the injustices the protesters point out. Now that’s powerful!
Jesus is clearly promoting social protest. While some among us would hardly think protest is revolutionary, others would find public action nearly impossible to do. I recall some students of mine admiring protesters on the streets of Riverside one year, but when they were invited to join the protest, these same students backed away saying, “I couldn’t be seen protesting.” The impact was clear to them: their reputations would be affected and they didn’t want to chance losing their good name or their friends in case they disagreed with the cause. Public protest immediately divides people. It can divide families and friends, too. When Jesus called protesters blessed or esteemed, valued by God, His listeners would have understood the risk his beatitude involved.
Following Jesus and His teachings was never easy. In the first century as it is now, really doing what Jesus calls us to – in this case, social protest – is hard! It means taking a stand. It means taking the risk that relationships can be broken or strained when we take a position against social injustice. For example, those who realize the fact that our governments and industries have backed away from addressing the causes of climate change know that social protest is an important and necessary tool to unmask the perpetrators of climate change and the inaction of governments. While hundreds of thousands have marched on the capitol for civil rights, we do not see so many people ready to protest the inaction of politicians in the field of environmental justice. The cost of demanding change in the area of climate damage will be sacrifice for everyone. But the cost of saying nothing is even greater. The loss of land, the loss of lives and of species, and looming worldwide famine are just the tip of the climate-change iceberg if we fail to act!
Jesus calls us beyond our fears into social protest. He calls us to stand up for the value of all life in our stand against climate change. He does not say that it will be easy. He only promises that God will comfort us and deliver justice if we do our part. The only question that remains is, will you and I be counted among the blessed who engaged in social protest?
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I’ve heard it said that so-and-so had positioned himself for a raise or that such-and-such was positioned to take advantage of the emerging currents. Positioning is important in so many aspects of our lives and even Jesus positioned himself for maximum exposure of the good news.
Today’s gospel passage tells us that when Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus traveled north to Galilee and there he made his home in Capernaum by the sea. This short description of Jesus’ new home twenty miles distant from the hill country of Nazareth where he was raised placed Jesus at a major commercial crossroad. Capernaum was located near the border between Israel and modern-day Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, so it would appear that Jesus was positioning himself to be close to both Gentile cities and the Jewish ones. That would mean maximum exposure to the world! In fact, as we read the gospel accounts and see some of the confrontations between Jesus and his closest disciples, it appears that some of them were critical of Jesus’ contact with Gentiles. Yet, Jesus positioned himself to gain maximum exposure for the good news.
For the Christian who wants to practice good stewardship of the Earth and heal the wounds of pollution, positioning can be very important, too. It has become very clear that even if every Christian recycled used paper, metal, plastics and glass, it would not be enough to impact climate change and pollution. Personal responsibility is important, but our responsibility goes beyond recycling. The utilities that we accept into our homes and businesses, the vehicles that we use for transportation whether we are driving or flying or taking the train, the ways in which our food is grown, transported and marketed all have huge impacts on the climate. At the same time, individual efforts are not sufficient to eliminate these impacts on the environment. No, we need to position ourselves for greater influence with those who have the power to change these elements affecting climate change.
Positioning ourselves for greater impact can be as simple as joining environmental groups that apply pressure to the industries that control travel and farming. By joining together in action groups, we are able to add our voices to those who work for changes in industry. We weight our personal power with the power of many so that we can have greater impact. Some effective environmental groups are listed just below this reflection. We might begin by exploring their web sites and seeing how we can become a voice for change. All of these environmental groups publish links to other environmental groups that may appeal to us or that are close to our neighborhood’s concerns.
As Christians, we take our cues from Jesus who repositioned himself for the mission of spreading the Good News. We can position ourselves for influence and reposition ourselves when our circumstances change. Jesus moved from his hometown of Nazareth to a major cosmopolitan city along the Sea of Galilee. By doing so, he increased his ability to reach people who would enhance his ministry. This week, let’s all examine our current positions in the effort to restore Earth’s health and make whatever adjustments are needed to increase our influence.
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
- ▼ 01/23 - 01/30 (2)