Ascension Sunday 24th May 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
5th Anniversary of Laudato Si – Care for our common home
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” Mt. 28:18
Laudato Si, ‘Praise to you, my Lord’ is the title of an Italian hymn in praise of the Lord for the beauty and blessing of our created world. It was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi who had an extraordinary love and appreciation of all of nature’s gifts.
It is not surprising these same words “Laudato Si” are the first words and title of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on care for our common home. It is precisely five years to the day since Pope Francis gave this most timely and providential document to the Church and the world.
Over the last twenty or thirty years the Church along with the evidence offered by scientists has expressed its concerns about climate change and its impact especially on the poor. Laudato Si is the first time that the Church has reflected so thoroughly on all these questions along with members of the scientific community. This is also the first time that a Pope has addressed all these critical contemporary issues so thoroughly through the lens of our Christian faith so that it now forms part of the social teaching of the Church.
The Ascension of the Lord is a pivotal moment in our faith journey. Jesus’ return to the Father marks at once an absence from us and a new presence to us and to the world. As He walked with us and among us, He showed us the way, a path of truth and life. His departure is an act of trust in us to share our lives so deeply and authentically with one another that others will come to know the way and come to the truth and life in God.
Pope Francis in Laudato Si invites us to broaden our understanding and vision of climate change to include the need to treat all people fairly when it comes to enjoying the fruits of the earth. That is why he has coined the beautiful term “our common home”. It implies a shared place of shelter and recognises our common humanity despite our cultural, religious or national identities.
This broader understanding of climate and creation is both a question of faith – what we believe and of morals – what we do or neglect to do. To say that it is a question of faith – he invites us to see and think beyond our individual concern or anxiety to include others in our thoughts and feelings – to have compassion in the manner of Jesus “Have that mind within you that is in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Thinking and believing in this way means that our concern about climate change and impact both on nature and people become part and parcel of our spiritual understanding / spirituality.
To suggest that Pope Francis invites us to recognise the moral and ethical dimension of care for our common home means that we, by our actions or indifference, can be agents of healing and hope or cruelty and injustice to the victims of global warming. All of us are citizens of a new global reality.
All of the concerns talked about in Laudato Si have been added to by the global experience of COVID–19. What began in the Far East just six months ago has gone right round the world and again it is the poor who are the victims mainly.
Laudato Si care for our common home and COVID-19 – care of our shared humanity, taken together cry out to all in leadership to address the question of what kind of world have we created? And what kind of world do we hope to leave to future generations? If our only measure is economic growth and the wealth that comes to a few then greed and accumulation is the result. That has led to great poverty, violence and war.
A new generation is inspired and excited by the vision of Laudato Si because it asks the fundamental question about the God given dignity of each person who deserves a basic quality of life to walk gracefully upon the earth.
The recent migrant crisis in Europe did not endear Pope Francis to some people because of his effort to highlight their plight and their absolute need for food and shelter. It led to the re-emergence of nationalist groups keen to build walls and barriers of exclusion.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” is the mandate of Jesus to us. It means we must care, the plight of our sisters and brothers must matter to us. The great consolation comes with the mandate
“And know that I am with you always
Yes! to the end of time”