Homily – September 29, 2019

We’re all so familiar with this parable of the rich man dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day.

Then there is poor Lazarus, a derelict covered with sores hoping to feast on the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. How we live, the decisions we make have consequences. Both men died. Lazarus lives in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man goes to hell. The rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brother not to live as he did. Not possible. If they haven’t learned how to live from the teachings and example of Moses and prophets like Amos they won’t listen to someone like Lazarus.

I think a modern version of this parable happened this past week at that United Nations conference of global warming. The modern Lazarus was the teenager from Sweden, Greta Thunber. In today’s parable Lazarus says nothing, but Greta castigated world leaders for the failure to face our reality of global warming, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, and changing weather systems. She warned these people of power that we are on the verge of massive extinctions. Greta accused them of giving lip service to these realities and of not living up to promises they’ve made to change things. She told them all they were interested in was economic gains and business as usual.

Speaking on behalf of young people around the world she told these world leaders; ‘The eyes of all the future generations are on you, her voice quivering with rage. If you choose to fail us, we will never forgive you.’

Greta was applauded by many and dismissed by others, President Trump and the Prime Minister of Australia, a country that is one of the world’s greatest exporters of coal, dismissed her as a seeker of publicity. Greta’s words to people of power brought thousands of young people in cities all across Canada to march on Friday seeking a healing of the earth.

Will we ever see the day when the powerful listen to the powerless, the haves hear the cries of the have nots?

Pope Francis recently spoke these encouraging words;

“With honesty, responsibility and courage we have to put our intelligence at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral and capable of placing economy at the service of the human person, building peace and protecting the environment.”

But the climate crisis will require not only an ethical vision but a religious one. Throughout human history, religion has motivated people to do extraordinary things, sometimes bad but also good. The cathedrals of Europe were begun and mostly built by people who never saw their completion. How do you motivate someone to take the first shovel of dirt for a building that will not be completed for centuries?

The same can be asked about our response to the environmental crisis we as members of the human family are facing? What can we do to avoid a calamity that will face future seventh generations from today? Let’s go back to those people who broke ground for the cathedrals of old. They would never see the completion of their labor but they believed in what they were doing. As men and women of that same Catholic faith any effort each one of us makes to live simply that others may simply live is an act of faith in a future we’ll never see, but a future of a healed and healthier earth that we will leave to future generations. Like Lazarus and the rich man our ways of living have their consequences.