On 24 May 2015 Pope Francis signed his second encyclical Laudato Si’. Addressed to every living person on the planet it called for a dialogue about the future of the planet, Our Common Home. At the start of this Laudato Si’ week 16- 25 May Jane Crone from CAFOD in East Anglia reflects on why people of faith care about Our Common Home.
The crisis of COVID 19 has taught us that life can change very quickly, our relationships and ways of thinking and living have been irreversibly shaken up. Knowing that the future will be different, we talk about ‘building back better or differently and of a ‘new normal’. In ‘Let Us Dream’ Pope Francis calls the time we live in a time of ‘reckoning’ but also a time of choices and opportunity. Reflecting on his own times of crisis or ‘personal Covids’ he says, ‘What I learned was that you suffer a lot, but if you allow it to change you, you come out better, but if you dig in, you come out worse.’
“For we know things can change”
In the light of the pandemic, it’s no coincidence that Laudato Si Week 2021 has a bold theme “for we know things can change” (LS 13). After all, we have been through this year these words must resonate with us all. Issued just before the Paris Climate Conference Laudato Si’ responds to a different, yet related crisis – that of the damage human activity is doing to the natural world and the effect this has on the world’s poorest people, who contribute least to the climate crisis. Hearing ’the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ (LS49) calls us to an ecological conversion, to adopt an integral ecology that combines the social debate on justice with the scientific debate on the environment.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been assessing the scientific basis of climate change and its impact on the earth since 1988. Yet, since 1988 global warming has increased at a faster rate than before, hitting the world’s poorest hardest, resulting in hunger, migration and conflict. This brings us to ask, ‘why don’t we change our ways, don’t we care about what’s happening to the earth? The sad truth is that most people only change their ways when something directly affects them. The rich and powerful cause the most damage to the earth but are least affected by its consequences. While people living on the margins contribute least damage to the environment and suffer the most. No wonder things don’t change.
Despite the enormity of the climate crisis Laudato Si’ is a deeply hopeful document which sees and judges ‘the signs of the times’ in the light of scripture calling for dialogue, ecological conversion and action. Chapter two, The Gospel of Creation, shows how human life is lived in relationship, with God, our neighbour and the earth starting from the story of creation, moving through the Old Testament and into the gospels. It calls us to recognise that we have not cared and tended for the created world as we should, causing these relationships to break down.
How God reveals himself through the story of creation
The amazing level of participation in CAFOD campaigns and Laudato Si week events proves that people of faith care deeply about the environment and Our Common Home. The Gospel of Creation shows us this is because people of faith believe that God reveals himself through the story of creation in three ways. Firstly, because God reveals himself in the wonders of the created world, as Saint John Paul II said, ‘God has written a precious book, ‘whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe.’ (LS 85). This has special resonance in a year in which restrictions have retaught us to appreciate the wonders of creation such as, birdsong, spring bluebell woods and open-air meetings with friends.
Secondly, the Gospels picture an incarnate, earthly Jesus attentive to and delighting in the beauty of creation and teaching through images drawn from the created world around him, for example tiny mustard seeds, the birds of the air or the lilies of the fields. While at the same time his relationship with creation has a unique, special and wonderous harmony ‘What sort of man is this, even the winds and the sea obey him’ Matt 7 v 28.
Thirdly, the New Testament shows us a risen, cosmic Christ in and for whom all creation exists who penetrates every corner of the universe with his love. The phrase all things powerfully resounds through many gospel texts, for example in. John 1 v 3 , ‘through him all things were made.’ or Colossians 1 v 17 says, ‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’
How you can get involved
If you’re inspired by Laudato Si’ and believe that “ things can change” (LS 13) do take a look at the Events organised for Laudato Si Week. Could you organise something simple for your parish or your school? If you’d like information about climate change take a look at the Climate Change FAQs on the CAFOD website and please do contact us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
A last thought if – like us – you enjoy art and find it a helpful way to engage with scripture do take a look at the reflection on Colossians chapter 1 online exhibition from Visual Commentary on Scripture Cosmic Christ and his Gospel.