Pope Francis on Climate Change (Sunday Homily)
Readings for 1 st Sunday of Lent: GN 9: 8-15; PS 25: 4-9; I PT 3: 18-22; MK 1: 12-15
The liturgy of the word for this first Sunday of Lent highlights the pope’s concern for the environment and calls us to become visionaries like him — and especially like the young prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, as depicted in today’s Gospel.
Take this morning’s first reading. Its focus, like the pope’s, is environmental destruction. Genesis, chapter nine gives the ending of the familiar story of Noah and his Ark. There God makes a promise (3 times in fact) to Noah, his sons, their descendants, and (significantly) to the birds and animals, that he will never again destroy “all bodily creatures” by flood waters.
The Responsorial Psalm then reminds us that we can trust God’s word, because God, in the psalmist’s words, is compassionate, loving, kind, good, upright and just.
It’s that loving God whose Spirit in today’s gospel drives Jesus out to the desert for his “Lenten Retreat” — 40 days and nights of prayer and fasting. The Spirit sends him on a vision quest intimately connected with Pope Francis’ vision for the world’s future.
Recall the circumstances of Jesus’ quest. John the Baptizer has just baptized Jesus as one of his disciples. On emerging from the waters of the Jordan, Jesus receives a startling revelation about his true identity. A voice from heaven addresses him, “You are my beloved son,” it says.
Surprised and perhaps shaken by that revelation, Jesus retreats to the desert to determine what it all might mean. As I said, it’s a vision quest. And immediately the visions come — more heavenly voices, Satan, angels, and wild beasts.
All of these elements are important. They belong to Israel’s “apocalyptic” tradition — a highly political genre promising the overthrow of the nation’s imperial oppressors. Jesus’ visions call him to continue the work of John the Baptist, who, Mark informs us, has just been arrested. Jesus’ task is to announce the proximity of “God’s Kingdom.” It’s a world where God is king instead of Caesar. It’s a world like the one promised in the Book of Genesis. There human beings live in complete harmony with their Heavenly Father/Mother, with one another, with animals, birds, fish, and plants.
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