It is stating the obvious to say life is all about relationships. Lent offers us all a time to reflect upon our relationships, relationship with family and friends and co-workers and neighbours, fellow parishioners and especially our relationship with God. The truth of the matter is that the quality of all these relationship determines the quality of our relationship with God. In the gospel we hear of Jesus driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit. In that bleak place He was to ponder His own relationship with God and what that relationship would demand of Him. Once he understood what was asked of him He came back from the desert with the demanding message ‘repent and believe in the good news’.
To repent requires a change of mind and heart, a change in our attitudes and understanding of things. This is a life long process. Repentance goes way beyond giving up chocolate or scotch for forty days. That may take will power but the repentance to which Jesus calls us is an invitation to turn away from habits and mindsets that have become almost a part of our make up as persons but are barriers to our becoming the men and women God calls us to be. When we hold back from loving others, accepting others, respecting others we hold back and diminish our relationship with God.
If we want to, we can use these days of Lent to take a look at what is good and what is needed in all our relationships. Instead of saying ‘do we need to’ maybe we could say, ‘do we want to’. Do we want to spend more time with the family, do we want to be more patient with children, do we want to show we appreciate those we say we love, do we want to take the time to call or visit aging parents, do we want to be more aware of the poor and needy in our community, do we want to mend broken relationships, apologize for the wrong we’ve done, do we want to forgive those who have wronged us, do we want to deepen our relationship with God by spending a few minutes in peace, quiet and prayer each day, do we want to mend a broken relationship with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation? The list could go on and on.
In our first reading from Genesis we heard the story of Noah and the Ark. According to the story God sent the flood because of the sins and the infidelity of the people. He found Noah and his family faithful and so they were spared. The part we heard today seems to have God saying, ‘let’s give this another try’ and so He enters into a new covenant, a bonding with Noah and his family. God makes the promise never to destroy the earth again by a flood. To show God is at peace with humanity God sets His bow in the sky. God changes an instrument of war, the bow and arrow into a sign of peace. God enters into a new relationship with humanity. But not just with humanity. God’s covenant is with Noah and his family and with every living creature that is with him. God binds Himself to all living things upon the earth.
One of our relationships that needs the most healing, the most attention is our relationship with all living things that share this planet with us. The truth of the matter is, we have alienated ourselves from the earth community by our exploitation of earth’s resources, living and not living. Because of our disconnect with the earth community we have done great damage to earth. We have done great damage to ourselves. As you’ve heard me say before; “the earth does not belong to us we belong to the earth and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.”
Last December there was an article in the Star titled “Don’t fix the economy, change it”. A main topic of concern in Canada right now is the budget. The article talks about the ecological budget and the need for nations to plan their budgets around the ecological budget.
The article says “the ecological budget on which all life and consequently the human economy depend is already in dramatic deficit.” Why is this budget more important than the fiscal budget? The author claims that September 23, 2008 was Earth Overshoot Day. The period after Sept 23rd represents the time the human population causes an ecological deficit, using up the earth faster than the earth can regenerate. Every year Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier. This moving date tells the story of a global environment rapidly losing its ability to support life; accelerating climate change, the loss of species, the proliferation of ocean dead zones, diminishing fresh water resources. All these are indications of a harsh reality we avoid facing; that the global environment is rapidly losing its ability to support life, our life, all life.
This is heavy stuff but Lent is about heavy stuff, repentance, changing our mindsets and attitudes. If we are willing to use Lent as a time to take a serious look at the health and wholeness of our relationships then this is one relationship that needs our attention – our relationship with all living creatures that share the earth with us. We can use Lent to examine our life styles, the way we consume, the way we waste, the way we litter. Because of the economic crisis touching so many nations, including our own, people are going to have to make changes in the way they live their lives. Because of the ecological deficit facing the globe we are all going to have to look at the way we live upon the earth. We do this not because we have to but because we want to. We want to heal our relationships with every living creature that share earth with us.
Think on this: our daily small actions multiplied by millions are having a devastating effect on the planet, but by the same token our daily positive actions multiplied by millions can have a healing effect on the planet. Two examples: think of how things have changed since people became more and more aware of the ill effects of smoking. Think of how things have changed since Loblaw’s started charging for plastic bags. Little things, but little things have a powerful impact.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we all be blessed with the gift of repentance, a desire to change the way we think of and relate to God’s good creation. May we make our own this native prayer; Gracious God, give us hearts to understand; never to take from creation’s beauty more than we give; never to destroy wantonly for the furtherance of greed; never to deny to give our hands for the building of earth’s beauty; never to take from her what we cannot use. Give us hearts to understand that to destroy earth’s music is to create confusion; that to wreck her appearance is to blind us to beauty; that to callously pollute her fragrance it to make a house of stench; that as we care for her, she will care for us.