The Deep End
5 September o 'Ephphatha'
This Sunday is the First Sunday of the Season of Creation, a global ecumenical season which runs from 1 September until the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, 4 October. All Christians are invited to embrace this season in prayer, especially in our liturgies, in deep reflection, in living more sustainably and in raising our voices in the public sphere. We are invited to think more deeply about what is happening at present to the earth, the environmental destruction which now threatens our world and the call to 'eco-conversion'. The theme for this year's Season is 'Restoring Our Common Home'. It offers all of us a unique opportunity to renew our vocation to care more deeply God's creation.
In today's Gospel Jesus heals a man who was deaf and who had a speech impediment. Jesus says to him, 'Ephphatha,' which means Be Opened. Immediately this man was healed. There are many issues in our world to which we might be deaf or are 'closed' to, sometimes because they overwhelm us. The environmental crises are an example. Pope Francis invites us in Laudato Si', his letter on the environment, to really hear and listen to the earth, which is crying out to us, to the scientific community who are sounding the alarm bells, to young people who are deeply concerned. Ephphatha! May we be open to hearing these cries, to praying for our world and to take action where we can. We begin with the small actions and encourage others to do the same. Ephphatha! Let us all be open to this call to care more deeply and 'Restore Our Common Home'.
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12 September o 'By my words, I will show you my faith'
In the second reading today from St James we read, 'What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?' And in our Gospel reading we hear: 'The way you think is not God's way but man's…'. These are challenging texts which remind us to reflect on what path we are walking as followers of Jesus. Jesus' path was radically different to what people of his time expected of a Messiah. It was a path that would lead to much sacrifice. Being a Christian today means following Jesus' example, being counter-cultural and making sacrifices for a greater good.
Today is also the second Sunday in the Season of Creation, a time we are called to explore our relationship with nature, God's creation. Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si' - On Care for Our Common Home that 'We are not God' (LS, 67). He challenges us to re-examine our vocation to care for creation. In the past we misinterpreted God's words in Genesis to mean that we could have dominion over all of creation, own it and plunder it for our own use. Pope Francis invites us instead to explore our role as carers of creation and reminds us that the very first commandment we were ever given was to be protectors of this beautiful world. Yet, we know the earth cries out to us and that we are living through the sixth mass extinction of life on this earth due to human activity. Ecosystems are collapsing; biodiversity is in crisis. Laudato Si' is a hope-filled document, reminding us that we can set out on a new path, that we are capable of turning things around. One key action each of us can take this Season of Creation is to plant a native Irish tree. Each parish, diocese, family, school, university can engage in this symbolic action to help Restore Our Common Home. This week, gather two or three people and explore what can be done, mindful that our Gospel today urges us to walk God's ways not man's.
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19 September o Welcoming the Child
In today's gospel Jesus is instructing those who will follow on from him and carry on his work for future generations. He took a little child and said to the disciples, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.' As we continue our journey through the Season of Creation, we are reminded of Pope Francis' words in Laudato Si - On Care for Our Common Home, where he challenges us to reflect: 'What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?' (Laudato Si, 160). In the context of the environmental crises our world is facing, how are we welcoming the generations to come? Pope Francis does not hold back when referring to the challenges: 'We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth' (LS, 161). We know that climate change and the biodiversity crisis are driving so many problems in our world at present. 'Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.' (LS, 25). Yet our pace of consumption does not ease. Young people are standing up and calling governments and world leaders to account, rightly concerned about their future.
During this Season of Creation, we must pray for our world, and act. How can we restore our common home and ensure that our world is liveable for the generations who are coming after us? Can your parish explore becoming an Eco-Parish, setting up a care for creation team, turning church grounds in areas which promote biodiversity? There is so much we can do, and no action is too small. We must listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of our young people.
'The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.' - Greta Thunberg.
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In the second reading from St James today we hear of a condemnation of the rich who exploit the weak. This theme carries on into the Gospel where Jesus has harsh words for anyone who would try to bring down 'the little ones'. It is a lesson in tolerance and a call to care for the weak and vulnerable.
During this Season of Creation we are reflecting on the call to Restore Our Common Home and care more deeply for God's creation, to live out our vocation to be protectors of God's handiwork. This means being aware of the facts of the crisis so that we can discern where we are being called to act. Scientists tell us that we are now living through the 6th mass extinction of life on our planet because of the catastrophic destruction of biodiversity due to human activity. We have plundered the earth. We are also aware that our world faces a devastating climate crisis. This Autumn, two vital UN conferences are due to take place, the UN Conference on Biodiversity (known as COP15, in China) and the UN conference on Climate Change (COP26 in Glasgow). Catholics all over the world have been invited to sign a petition addressed to the Presidents of these conferences, to raise our voices for God's Creation and encourage world leaders to take the necessary action. The petition is called 'Healthy Planet, Healthy People' and has been endorsed by the Vatican as the main action for Catholics to take during this Season of Creation. It is something we can all easily do by going to www.thecatholicpetition.org and inviting our families and friends to do the same. Parishes, dioceses, universities, businesses, congregations can also sign. By taking part in this way, we are standing in solidarity with young people, with the poor who suffer the most from environmental destruction and with creation.
Let us always be conscious of our responsibility to be carers of creation, to connect more deeply with the wonderous world around us, to take action against all that threatens our common home.
You can find this year's Season of Creation resources on www.catholicbishops.ie
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Jane Mellett o firstname.lastname@example.org
A message from Tríona Doherty and Jane Mellett
This is the final instalment of the Deep End column.
For the past 11 years we have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our thoughts and reflections on the Sunday Gospel with you all. We are very grateful to Intercom for this opportunity and to all those parishes that shared our reflections through their parish newsletters and in other ways. If you have enjoyed our reflections, we are delighted to say that our new book is now available through Messenger Publications: The Deep End: A Journey with the Sunday Gospels in the Year of Luke www.messenger.ie.