Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
We face a constant challenge. And that is to try to figure out when we are teaching human precepts as if they are God’s Word. Because we are human we are tempted all the time to confuse the one with the other. We genuinely want to honor God, yet too often our very human fears, desires, ideologies, self-interests turn God’s Word into something that is self-serving and not God-serving. Jesus rightly brings this temptation to our attention in our reading from Mark’s Gospel today. And he’s clear: when we do this, we worship Jesus in vain. We worship Jesus for ourselves, not for Jesus. When we do this, we are hypocrites. This is a harsh word and a true one.
In a wonderful documentary on Pope Francis released last summer (if you haven’t seen it yet, I hope you’ll put it in your Netflix queue) titled Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (by the celebrated German director, Wim Wenders), Pope Francis poses a powerful question that, I believe, we must take most seriously. In the context of talking about all sorts of suffering in the world endured by people fleeing civil wars and horrific violence in their home countries, people obliged to seek their daily sustenance by picking through trash in landfills, people who are dying for want of decent medical care, Pope Francis asks the viewer: Who is suffering the most today? Gosh, amidst all that heart-wrenching suffering, how does one choose? And his answer is arresting: Mother Earth.
It is Mother Earth who Pope Francis says is suffering the most. And he is convicted that it is we who are causing her to suffer by way of our common love affair with over consumption and all things petroleum and plastic.
These days there is no shortage of voices that have transformed words and phrases from Genesis 1 into a mandate for human beings to do whatever they want to Mother Earth—God’s blessed creation. Words and phrases like “fill the earth and subdue it” and “have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth” are taken to mean that God commanded human beings to put God’s creation to their uses however they desire. According to this take on Genesis 1, humans can do no wrong when it comes to Mother Earth.
Of course, that’s nonsense. God created because God overflows with love not because God wants to fulfill our every desire to consume or make our lives as convenient as possible. To make sure that we would not be confused, God put before us His model—Jesus, who willingly suffered his passion and died on a cross so that we might have a chance at salvation.
If Pope Francis is right (and I think he is) that the one who is suffering the most today is Mother Earth, then I think we have to ask ourselves how we might honor our Creator and our Savior by loving God’s creation so much more than we have done. What sacrifices of our desires and convenience might we pledge ourselves to today on behalf of our Mother Earth? May we pray upon that and live into our answers.
- Sue Trollinger