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, February 12, 2011
A good reputation is undoubtedly one of the most precious possessions that anyone can have. Even more important than what others think and say about us is what God thinks about us. Have you ever wondered what God would say about you if God were to assign you a reputation? Today’s psalm refrain got me thinking about that very topic.
“Blessed are those who walk in the way of the Lord!” Now that’s a good reputation and one that I hope we can all claim. Because that is our deep desire, the gospel reading today challenges us about how faithfully we walk in God’s ways. Jesus claims that “until heaven and earth pass away, not one stroke of the letter will pass from the Law until it is all accomplished.” There is no wiggle room in such a claim! Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter when he tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. Now the Pharisees were a group of lay people in Jesus’ day who tried to keep the Mosaic Law in all its minutiae. They were careful about what they ate, about washing before eating, about how far they were permitted to travel on the Sabbath day, and so on. Jesus said we must go beyond the Pharisaic concerns and go to the heart of the matter.
He tells us about murder, “But I say to you that the one who is angry with their brother or sister will be liable to judgment; and whoever insults their brother or sister, will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” In other words, we must not merely avoid the evil of killing. Not doing something evil is merely an absence of evil. It is a null set. Rather, Jesus wants us to be filled with virtue. We must love in word and deed, not merely avoid hatred, revenge or insult. We are to be reconciled with someone who holds something against us. Instead of merely not killing, our lives are to patterned on Jesus’ love that nurtures and cares for others, love that does good, that heals and that feeds other’s needs. The path to virtue is an active life of doing good and being kind with others.
St. Paul reminds us in the letter to the Corinthians that this is wisdom, to follow Jesus, trusting His way in our lives. Our reading from the book of Sirach says it this way: “Before each person are life and death, good and evil and whichever one chooses, that shall be given.” Our lives are filled with many choices and we are free to choose. However, we need to be clear that every choice is between life and death, good and evil. Sirach goes even further to say when we choose good and life, then that is what we shall receive in our lives, too. But when we choose evil and death, we will receive the same.
As Christians who know that we are responsible for the care of the Earth, we can take these messages to heart. However we choose to use this planet’s resources, we are either choosing life and good or death and evil. The result is not only good or evil for ourselves, but the consequences of our choices today will result in life or death for future generations, too. I am reminded of the command given to the angel in the book of Revelation where the angel is commanded to “harm not the earth.” We are also given the same command. But when we apply Jesus’ teaching about murder to our care of the earth, we must realize that it is not enough to avoid death dealing. We must become proactive and live deeply virtuous lives of nurturing love for the Earth and all its species. When we are careful, weighing our actions and our purchases against their effects on the earth, then we become more and more loving of our home and all the other creatures who share Earth with us. How wonderful it will be if living eco-loving lives God establishes our reputation saying, “Blessed are you who walk in the law of the Lord!”
Sunday, February 6, 2011
So many times we sing songs in church with lines like, “We are the light of the world,” or “Let your light shine.” It’s a symbol that is easily understood and one that beckons us to live our Christian faith in such a way that others are able to recognize God’s work in us. Jesus uses the symbol of light, and so does the reading from Isaiah today.
Isaiah spells the meaning of light clearly for us. Our light shines when we are breaking bonds of injustice, releasing people from their burdens, and freeing others from oppression. When our light shines, Isaiah says then the hungry are fed, the homeless given shelter and the naked are clothed. When we act in these ways it becomes obvious that God is at work among us and Isaiah promises that God answers our prayers when we are light in the world.
These are themes that we are familiar with. What we may not know so much about is the symbol of salt that Jesus uses in today’s gospel reading. There he says, “You are salt for the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but it is thrown out and trampled underfoot.” As modern Christians, we are more familiar with dietary restrictions on salt than its usefulness. To understand Jesus’ use of salt we need to understand how salt was used in his day. Salt was used to give taste to foods, much like we use it today. Salt was also used as a preservative when refrigerators and freezers didn’t exist. Beyond its use in food, salt was also used to seal loyalty and friendships; and salt was used to seal a bargain because it is immutable. Therefore, salt was also associated with permanence and longevity.
When Jesus tells us that we are salt for the earth, he is telling us that our faithfulness and our witness to him are meant to be a permanent, unmitigated sign to the entire world like the unchangeable nature of salt. That is a tall order! I suspect that each of us experience our lives as less than faithfully Christian.
Consider Jesus’ teaching that we are to live lives of nonviolent love and simplicity for the sake of God’s kingdom. How often do we allow ourselves violence – violence in language or in policies at our work places or our government, even violence at home? How often do we give into the marketing slogans that tell us that we need more things in order to be happy? How consistent is our reverence for the Earth and our stewardship of its resources? Each time we surrender to the temptations to live less than gospel-valued lives, then our “salt” is less salty, our witness to Jesus, less than total. Our human weakness leads us to much more variable witness than the unchanging saltiness of salt. Yet Jesus wants us to give clear and unwavering witness to him and his gospel.
Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading that if salt becomes unsalted, then it is worth nothing and will be thrown out to be trampled on. What a terrible warning! In nature, it is nearly impossible for salt to lose its saltiness; but in human nature, our fidelity is often less absolute. Jesus challenges us today to become as unalterable as nature’s salt. The entire planet depends on us to be who Jesus called us to be, his true disciples. Yet, we can grow tired of the constant commitment to simplicity of life or sustainable living. So, Jesus calls us – beckons us – toward greater and greater fidelity to him and our witness to gospel values.
We are to be salt, the sign of God’s faithful and permanent presence among us. We are to be salt, those who preserve the message of Jesus by becoming living examples of the gospel. We are to be salt, those who maintain the covenant between God and our planet by being true to the Jesus. May our lives give constant flavor and persistent zest to all who look for the meaning of Christian love in the world and for the Earth!
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
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