A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own kin. These words are proven by the reception Jesus received when he visited his home town of Nazareth after living in Capernaum. He was invited to read from the scriptures and say a few words. According to Luke Jesus read from the scroll of Isiah about the spirit of the Lord being given to him to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to captives and to set the downtrodden free. Jesus told his neighbours who knew since he was a child, ‘today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ Their reaction was swift and furious. How dare Jesus speak like this, who does he think he is, his father was a carpenter, there’s his mother and his family. Who does he think he is claiming God’s Spirit was given to him to tell us how to live? They ran him out of town.
When we hear the word prophet we usually think of a person who tells of future events but that is not the only role of the prophet. A prophet is one who calls people to face the failures and the injustices of the times in which they live and change their ways.
Last Tuesday evening we had close to 300 people here reflecting on the importance of Pope Francis’ letter to the church and all people who care about the degradation being done to our home, planet earth. The letter is titled ‘Laudato Si’ Praise be to you my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs. These words are from a famous prayer or canticle of St. Francis of Assisi.
We were guided through this discussion by Fr. Steve Dunn and Dr. Denis O’Hara a professor from St. Mike’s who teaches ecology and theology. There was a lively and informative exchange of ideas concerning the present environmental and ecological health of planet earth.
The heart of the matter question Pope Francis asks is,’ what kind of a world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up.’ I’ve often wondered while baptizing an infant ‘what kind of a world will this kid grow up in and in what kind of a world his children will grow up?
You’ve heard me say this many times before, ‘The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.’
What we need is a whole new mind set as regards our relationship with Earth, mother Earth. Genesis tells us we are to subdue the earth and conquer it, be its master and that’s what we’ve been doing. We imagine ourselves to be stewards of God’s creation, managers and exploiters of Earth. Our prophet Francis calls us to know that we are kin; we are family with every life form that shares with us our common home Earth. Pope Francis teaches ‘when all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in our land, then all life is endangered. All these life forms are inter-connected and when one life form in reduced or becomes extinct all other life forms, including the human, are lessened. What we do to the earth we do to ourselves.
Leaders of nations are becoming more and more aware of the environmental crises we face through climate change. Our own federal government refuses to face the global crises happening around us, it’s the elephant in our living room. Hopefully Pope Francis’ words and warning will have some impact on the world’s leaders meeting in Paris next December to call nations away from our dependence of fossil fuels which are the main cause of the climate changes impacting the world. It is a global climate summit.
His neighbours drove the prophet Jesus out of his home town. Who does he think he is tells us how to live our lives. We can be sure our prophet Pope Francis will be driven out of the Board Rooms of industry and commerce whose sole focus is exploitation and profit. Pope Francis will be challenged in the corridors of congresses and senates and houses of parliament. He will be told ‘stick to your God talk’ you know nothing about science, trade and world development and politics. As one leader of global industry said, ‘Though Pope Francis’ heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations’ unscientific agenda on the climate.’- another elephant.
Will we as individuals listen to the words of our prophet Francis? He is calling us not to just a change in life style, to live simply that others may simply live; our prophet Francis is calling us to a whole new mind set, a change in the way we look at our relationships with God’s good creation. This will not be easy. We are so set in our ways, so caught up in consumerism and wastefulness. We are not Lords of creation, we are kin, and we are family with all of creation. He tells us that the bounty of the earth is meant for all of us but especially the poor. He asks us to hear the cry of Earth and the cry of the poor.
Our prophet Francis offers us words of hope when he tells us, ‘The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather all creatures are moving forward with us and through us toward a common point of arrival, which is God.’
The question is: will we listen to the words of the prophet Francis and let his words challenge us to hear and answer the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor?