By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
Autumn is not my most favorite season, but it does have a lot going for it. Autumn conjures up bright sunny days with beautiful blue skies and cool breezes, dazzling color glowing from tree to tree, the distinctive smell of fireplaces and bonfires in the evenings, the sticky sweetness of roasted marshmallows, the crinkle of leaves underfoot. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
The last couple of weeks have been anything but idyllic. It’s been hot – and not just the temperature, though we’ve had plenty of that. The last few weeks have been filled with hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires, and controversies over healthcare, immigrants and illegal aliens, dreamers, taking down confederate statues, banning refugees, whether to declare Lake Erie impaired and kneeling during the national anthem, as well as riots, acts of terrorism and the threat of nuclear war. Where did all this come from?
Obviously, we can’t control nature. But there are some things we can do to ease the stresses our planet is dealing with. The more we try to exert control over – and deny our inherent dependence – on our Earth, the more we break an intrinsic relationship created by God.
The social discontent has been simmering for a long, long time. Much of it is based on the notion of entitlement and the racism that systematizes it. As a Christian, and especially as a Franciscan, I struggle with the fact that it’s so easy for so many “good” people to dismiss others. It’s so easy to believe that God is on my side. The question we need to ask is whether I’m on God’s side. In the Scriptures, in both Old and New Testaments, it’s very clear that God stands with the poor, the lowly, the alienated.
In his encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls us to an integral ecology that grows out of our faith. He sees the relationship between God, Earth and each other as intrinsic – as intrinsic as the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity. Our task is to live the compassion to which Jesus calls us: to see with God’s eyes, to love with God’s heart, to act with God’s goodness.
Perhaps we all, whatever our faith tradition, need to kneel, in prayer, that cooler minds and warmer hearts might prevail.