March 6, 2019 — On February 26, the Vatican Press Office published Pope Francis’ Lenten Message. Bearing the imprint of the encyclical Laudato si, this message invites Catholics to an ecological conversion and a more harmonious relationship with creation. It is also an interesting preamble to the Synod on Amazon, which will begin its work next fall and which intends to place the fate of the planet and indigenous peoples at the centre of its reflections.
Catholics today celebrate Ash Wednesday, entering into the liturgical cycle of Lent and the ascent to Easter with the same breath. Liturgical cycle but also biological cycle: last year’s green and invigorating branch has turned to ash; winter is coming to an end, the grass will soon turn green again, while the maples are starting to flow into the maple producers’ boilers. It is by tasting the first fruits of spring that we will commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that incarnate Word and God of life stronger than death.
Pope Francis’ Lenten message skillfully bridges the gap between Christian faith and environmental concern. Denouncing consumerism, the culture of waste and the economy that kills, which are the hallmarks of this globalization of indifference that he has so often castigated, the Pope insists on the Christian call to redemption, as well as on the celebration of life that crystallizes in the paschal mystery. He therefore invites Catholics to give religious and ecological significance to this Lent.
«?Indeed, when we fail to live as children of God, Francis notes, we often behave in a destructive way towards our neighbours and other creatures – and ourselves as well – since we begin to think more or less consciously that we can use them as we will. Intemperance then takes the upper hand: we start to live a life that exceeds those limits imposed by our human condition and nature itself. We yield to those untrammelled desires that the Book of Wisdom sees as typical of the ungodly, those who act without thought for God or hope for the future (cf. 2:1-11). Unless we tend constantly towards Easter, towards the horizon of the Resurrection, the mentality expressed in the slogans “I want it all and I want it now!” and “Too much is never enough”, gains the upper hand.?»
"Once God’s law, the law of love, is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over. The sin that lurks in the human heart (cf. Mk 7:20-23) takes the shape of greed and unbridled pursuit of comfort, lack of concern for the good of others and even of oneself. It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip," he adds.
Catholics are also invited to give religious and ecological significance to the fasts, moments of prayer, liturgical solemnities and impulses of solidarity that will mark this Lent: "Fasting, that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to “devour” everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy. Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. And thus to rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world, and to find in this love our true happiness", says Francis.
It contains some echoes of the calls of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus inviting Christians and all humanity to be reconciled with God, their fellow men and creation. This call to ecological conversion and this concern for the preservation of our common home occupy a prominent place in the universal apostolic preferences of the Society of Jesus published on February 16.
Some Jesuit resources to make this Lent an opportunity for ecological conversion?:
- The Ecojesuit site presents a large number of resources to make the connection between Christian faith and concern for our common home.
- The encyclical Laudato si by Pope Francis.
- For an Ignatian perspective on this encyclical, see the Ecological Awareness Review
- It can also be further explored through the Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.