Monday, June 22, 2015

A Sea of Change - A Reflection on the Pope's Encyclical

Dear Friends,

For the ancient world, the sea was a dangerous place, capable of swallowing up travelers. It was full of evil spirits, who had caused the upheavals in the sea.

In the Hebrew Bible, only God had power over the sea. God, in the Book of Job, says to the stormy sea:
                                           Thus far shall you come and no farther.
                                           Here shall your proud waves be stilled.

But in our contemporary times, we think we can tame nature to do our will, to make it perform, give up its treasures, become what it was not intended to be. Then, along comes a  leader like Pope Francis, relative in faith to Il Poverello, Francis of Assisi.  Writing in his encyclical Laudate Si,  Pope Francis, in effect, says to the world about our faulty environmental ambitions:
                                         Thus far shall you come and no farther.

All contemporaries who want creation to be shaped to our brilliant designs, our re-routing, our dreams of conquest, Francis, Bishop of Rome says: Our goal …is to become painfully aware, to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering, and thus, to discover what each of us can do about it. (Laudato si, n.19)

To go back to the water imagery with which these thoughts began, Pope Francis calls us to a sea-change – a change that is significant beyond our expectations, arises turbulently, when we are not fully aware that it is coming.

The disciples of Jesus in the boat on the Sea of Galilee experienced the roiling water and the threat of personal destruction – they, whose numbers included fishermen, grew frightened by the ferocity of the storm. But Jesus was not distressed. He was asleep in the boat. What this storm offered the disciples is what it offers us:  the potential for new thinking, new being, new acting, fresh starts. Jesus says to us, as He did to the waterlogged disciples
                                                Why are you so terrified?
                                                Why are you lacking in faith?

God had not abandoned them at the height of the storm. God will not abandon us or our earth as it and we experience upheaval. Not one to mince words, at the end of his strong call letter to the world on behalf of our common home, the earth Pope Francis reminds us that our common human quest is not for the sake of death, but for life: May our struggle and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.  (Laudato si, n.244)

Let’s get into the boat with the sleeping Jesus and his fearful disciples. Together with them and our human family, hope can be ours as we sail to the opposite shore with our common good in mind.

~Sister Joan Sobala