Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Caring for Our Common Home

Since its designation by Pope Francis in 2015, September 1 has been observed annually as the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation.

In his Message for tomorrow's observance, Pope Francis wrote:

If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.

Whence come the plea and laments? Prey to our consumerist excesses, the Pope observes, mother earth herself weeps and implores us to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction. Others cry and lament as well. There are also the poorest among us who are crying out. Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent. And so screams the future. Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.

Against this anxious background, Pope Francis articulates what the world's political leaders should already know, but seem so enfeebled when it comes to acting on what we know. The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars. 

Fortunately, for a change, some (however modest) progress was made with Congress's passage of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. This legislation invests $369 billion in energy-focused climate programs over ten years. Its proponents estimate that it will reduce emissions by 40% by 2030, which (if that really happens) would be a significant step in the direction the world needs to go. At a very practical level, the law will continue electric vehicle tax credits, through which Americans can receive up to $4,000 in credits for a used electric car and $7,500 for a new one.

Of course, such steps are but a start. As such they represent as much a challenge as an accomplishment. And as persons of faith, we feel ourselves even more responsible for acting each day in accordance with the summons to conversion. So let us follow Pope Francis, Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15). let us weep with the anguished plea of creation. Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.

Photo: Monte Cimone, the highest mountain of the Italian Apennines (Wikipedia)

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