“And [Jesus] was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” - Matthew 17: 2
In this season of Lent, we are invited to step back and closely examine our lives and our hearts. It is not an invitation to a mere moment of reflection, but to a deep, challenging, and rewarding journey of repentance and renewal. At the end of this six-week journey is the joy of Easter – but before it lies re-conversion and recommitment to loving God and our neighbor with our whole hearts.
This Lent, we invite you to reflect on a certain dimension of conversion: ecological conversion. Pope Francis defines ecological conversion as occurring when “the effects of [our] encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in [our] relationship with the world around [us]…We come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults, and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change.”
In today’s first reading, the prophet Joel begins the journey of Lent by calling us to conversion: “return to [God] with your whole heart.” What does this truly mean? How is it related to ecological conversion?
Today’s gospel offers us some first steps. It lays out the three pillars of Lenten practice: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, or action for charity and justice. It emphasizes that we are meant to carry out these practices humbly, not seeking attention or praise, but directing our full attention towards loving God, our neighbor, and all creation.
Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner Dave Kane writes, “As a human family, we have become unaware of, and insensitive to, how our actions and lifestyles contribute to the destruction of both God’s creation and human dignity.” In moving through our days, how often are we aware of how our lifestyle choices – our purchases, travel, food, trash – are related to the earth? Where do things come from, and where are they going? Whom will our actions harm, and whom will they benefit?
For example, the issue of plastic pollution grows larger every year. Scientists tell us that every bit of plastic that has ever been created is still in existence. About 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced since 1950. Chemicals in plastic are toxic to plants, animals, and humans. Vulnerable people around the world are most exposed to toxins from plastic. However, we largely carry on contributing to the problem, blind to how it affects the poor, the earth, and our relationship with God.
We can begin to approach these large questions and problems by learning to listen – beginning with silence before God and holy attention to the world around us. Pope Benedict XVI, quoted in Laudato Si’, said, “We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary… But rest opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others…and motivates us to greater concerns for nature and the poor.”
Let us practice returning with our whole hearts to God by listening carefully for what God is telling us in what Pope Francis calls “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” After we have listened, we can begin to repent of the harm we have done to our relationships with God, neighbor, and all creation and take steps toward renewal.
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours,
all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and
playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister,
Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord. through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.
- St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Creatures
Consider the ways in which you can conserve the precious resource of water in your daily life. Best practices for conserving water can be found here.
March 22 is World Water Day.
Maryknoll Missioner Experience
“From the day I arrived in Nepal, I knew the importance of the Bagmati River…the river swelled with seasonal rains my first two years there. Then the stench [of pollution] was no longer flushed with flowing waters. The days of watching people perched on rocks to fish were no more.
Remembering the river alone won’t cover these stones again or feed the hungry at the shore…How do we look and see as God sees? How do we look through the eyes of Jesus?”
- Sister Janet Hockman, Maryknoll Sisters*
*Thank you to the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns for permission to share this Lenten Guide at springfieldop.org.
Photo Credit: Second Sunday of Lent: Top image of mountain range in the public domain and available at http://bit.ly/highlandmountain. Image of the Bagmati river licensed in the creative commons 2.0 from Wikicommons: http://bit.ly/Bagmatiriver