Gasoline is $1.53 a liter in Ontario adjusted for US dollars and Joe Biden isn’t president either. Gasoline has historically cost more in Canada and the rest of the world. According to my brother gasoline is $8.88 a gallon in Zurich Switzerland. It’s long past time to find other modes of transportation. If you aren’t a farmer or a construction worker you don’t need a 1/2 or 3/4 ton pickup truck with all wheel drive. That’s ego and it will always cost more. My parents lived through WWII when gas was rationed. In 1974 after the Yom Kippur War gas prices doubled and tripled. I had to plan my leave and liberty around the calendar because in NYS you could only buy gas on even or odd days based on your license plate numbers. The national speed limit was set to 55 mph. In the past 40 plus years we’ve listened to politicians and others who convinced us we could drive like maniacs,own SUVs and Humvees that got atrocious mileage and live large otherwise. It just isn’t realistic. Electric cars and sustainable fuels are the future. Don’t let politicians and pundits bullshit you into believing it’s not possible. We won WWII. We put people on the moon because we believed we could. It’s time to reimagine our world and worldview.
Three years ago I joined thousands of others at the Climate March in Washington DC. Our small group of Franciscans joined other groups. We had overnighted at Silver Spring, Maryland and rode the metro to near the Smithsonian Institute. Then we made our way to St. Dominic Church which is near the mall. We gathered with other Franciscan Friars from Holy Name Province and then had Mass. Then we gathered in front of the church with others who like us would join the thousands of marchers who had come from all over the country.
It was a great day of solidarity. I remember getting interviewed by a Catholic radio station. It was a very warm day. I remember perspiring profusely and being spiritually and emotionally drained at the end of our march. I remember joining a group of Houghton College students who were part of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action at the end of the march to rest on the ellipse.
We never imagined then that less than three years later we’d be quarantined and locked down in a global pandemic perhaps caused and certainly exacerbated by climate change.
“What Christianity requires now, especially in view of developments in science, is not “no God,” as scientific naturalists propose, but a “new God,” as Teilhard provocatively announces”
— From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe by Ilia Delio, OSF
Up until now I’ve been trying to reconcile what Teilhard and Ilia have written with the old cosmology. But today the scales fell from my eyes. God is evolving and so is the universe. It makes perfect sense. The Garden of Eden never existed or not as the idyllic we have made it. I’ve known for some time that the Bible is full of wisdom stories. I’ve heard fundamentalists exclaim that the word of God is inerrant and that the Bible is to be taken literally. But after reading Leviticus one soon realizes that no one in their right mind would dream of observing some of what is written there. The dietary laws may have made perfect sense when they were written but not anymore.
The treatment of women is just plain backward and fundamentalists today perpetuate such practices because they are looking backward and trying to put new wine in old wineskins. We live in an evolving world where the role of women and men are changing. Religion and in my own case Roman Catholicism is too rigid. It must be redefined or it will become a minor sect. Priests must be allowed to marry. Women must be ordained. I am reminded frequently of Karl Rahner’s quote, “In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic or nothing at all.”
What does this new God look like? How are we called to live?
“Teilhard prophetically anticipated that human evolution would not take place without sideways forces of resistance and devolution, but he also saw that we would reach a decisive point of choosing either to evolve or to annihilate. We can destroy this world and ourselves in the process. We have the power to do so both in the form of weapons of mass destruction and the weapons of anger and hate.”
— A Hunger for Wholeness: Soul, Space, and Transcendence by Ilia Delio, OSF
The coronavirus maybe the agent of a new order. We can see the older order driven by fear, so called free market capitalism, xenophobia and ignorance flailing madly about trying to preserve the status quo in which the ultra-rich have benefitted. Covid-19 is deadly and only those who heed the directives to shelter in place are going to avoid its ravages. Maybe even those of us who are wearing masks, physically distancing, washing our hands religiously are still in danger.
I don’t think we are ever going back to the “way it was.” This pandemic is a prophetic moment and a warning. What happens in our community can have a global impact. We can chose to evolve or annihilate. The established order wants to maintain what was but that will never be and they are fighting tooth and nail to hold on. There is a new order emerging and who knows exactly how it will manifest. We are evolving. How will that order manifest?
Francis contemplated the footprints of God impressed on the things of creation, and he found God wherever he went in the world. As he experienced divine love within himself, so too he saw that same love throughout creation—in birds, trees, clouds, rabbits, even wolves. The world was the self-revealed gift of God, created to lead humans to what it signified, a deep, personal unity in love. Contemplation of the world was indistinguishable from the contemplation of God.”
— Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness by Ilia Delio
Francis saw no dichotomy but saw the world as one. For too long Western philosophy and religion as seen the exploitation of the planet somehow disconnected from our spirituality. I don’t think that can continue￼￼ in the post pandemic world. This is our common home and if we expect to live long and prosper we must take care of it along with each other.
Tonight as we were eating dinner my wife shared of when she was a little girl who grew up in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said she often wondered if someday she’d come home and someone would have started a nuclear war. I grew up in those times too. We had civil defense drills in school. We’d be instructed to hide under our desks or place our heads next to the corridor wall to protect us from the blast. Families and schools built “fallout shelters” and they were stocked with blankets and other emergency items to ensure we survived the unthinkable aftermath of nuclear war.
That was almost sixty years ago. The threat of nuclear war loomed over all of us who grew up in the post World War II 1950’s and 1960’s. There was the Berlin buildup, Vietnam and the peace movement. Then the roaring 80’s of Reaganomics and a possible clash with the Russians. The threat of nuclear war loomed briefly once again. There were low grade wars in the middle east because of our addiction to oil. Thousands of Americans lost their lives along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s and other residents of the lands we fought on. The all volunteer force allowed most Americans the luxury of not having to be involved. Shared sacrifice was replaced with glib, “thank you for your service.” We could be distant and cold to the needs of the poor, the marginalized and to the planet itself.
There were the prophets who warned us there was a day of reckoning in the future. It was our children and grand-children who would pay the price of our disconnection with the planet and with each other. Politicians told us that we could not afford to disrupt our economy to address the needs of the planet. We ignored violent tornadoes, one hundred year floods that occurred with increasing severity, fires that burned out of control and threatened entire ecosystems.
Now we are in the grip of a pandemic that threatens the existence of our civilization. We are locked down in our homes. Afraid to to touch our neighbors or worse yet breathe on them. Doctors and nurses are dying to save us. We, in the richest country on earth lack adequate medical supplies and infrastructure to save our citizens. The cost in human life is immense. One expert today suggested that 200,000 people in the United States alone will perish. The world wide total will be in the millions. There is no known cure for the virus. Is this the apocalypse? Our vast weapons systems that cost trillions of dollars are powerless to stop the pandemic. Our military is infected and faces a threat they’ve never known. Field hospitals are being setup all over the country and the world to care for those who need them.
Yesterday as I walked in the woods near my home I saw deer who crossed my path. There were some robins too. There were some beautiful flowers along the trail. I wondered if I would be here next year to see them. Will this be my final spring? Will this be our final spring? Be sure to tell the people around you that you love them. Make sure your affairs are in order. There are no guarantees. Make peace with each other and with the planet. Live simply so others can simply live. Pray for each other even for those you don’t like.
Those are some of last words of Jesus as he was dying on the cross. Rather than condemn his torturers and murderers he forgave them. Gandhi also forgave the man who killed him. There are other stories like Maximilian Kolbe, Oscar Romero and others who spoke truth to power and willing gave their lives in the service of love. On this Sunday morning when normally I’d be on my way to Mass I thought of forgiveness.
I forgive those who have labeled this pandemic a hoax, I forgive those who have used the pandemic to fleece their customers. I forgive those whom I saw playing five on five basketball in the park after we were requested to keep our distance. I forgive those politicians who put party above the welfare of the world. I forgive those who have brutalized our mother earth that unleashed this pandemic. I forgive myself for judging others. I forgive myself for a lack of faith that there will be a positive outcome. I forgive our generation who has left this world a mess for our children and grandchildren.
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus I’ve been wondering about its connection to climate change. I hadn’t seen anything in the news at all about any connection. It was just one of my private thoughts until yesterday when I happened to be looking at TED talks. I just happened to select a talk given recently at Southern Methodist University by Alanna Shaikh . Until yesterday I’d never heard of her but what she shared in her twenty minute talk was absolutely breathtaking and confirmed for me that Covid-19 is indeed connected to how we have been taking care of our common home.
When Pope Francis and others have spoken about the need to address climate change and income inequality they’ve been shouted down by those who said we cannot afford the economic strain that such efforts would entail. It seems that Mother Earth is refuting that madness in a way that only she could. Reflecting on the words of Pope Francis its becoming clearer that we have sinned and that we are paying dearly for those sins.
“The earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. – Pope FrancisLaudato Si – May 24, 2015
“I find a tremendous yearning among Nones and the millennial generation (born between 1982 and the early 2000s) for a more just and unified world. Many of the millennial generation are wholemakers involved in greening the earth, immigration reform, peace and nonviolence, economic justice, and environmental sustainability. They seek authentic community life, ways of meditation, and alternative gift economies; they believe that institutional religion is out of touch with the world. Like transhumanists, the Nones long for religious ideals without the institution.”
— Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness by Ilia Delio
I’m with Jane. We have a real climate emergency which will shorten the lives of our children and grandchildren prematurely. We need a president and leaders who recognize imperative of climate change.