By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
The archdiocesan observance of ‘Justice, Peace and Community Week’ on the theme: Caring for Creation: 8th Work of Mercy, commences on Saturday, October 20, and ends on Saturday 27. A calendar of key events for the week is included in this issue of Catholic News.
In his message for World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2016, entitled ‘Show mercy to our common home’, Pope Francis declared ‘Caring for Creation’ as the 8th Work of Mercy. Here are extracts from his message:
“Nothing unites us to God more than an act of mercy, for it is by mercy that the Lord forgives our sins and gives us the grace to practise acts of mercy in his name…The Christian life involves the practice of the traditional seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless… But if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces.
“Obviously (this) includes care for our common home. So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home. As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a ‘grateful contemplation of God’s world’ (Laudato Si’, 214) which ‘allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us’ (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires ‘simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness’ and ‘makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world’ (ibid., 230-31).”
How can we change our course? “Examining our consciences, repentance and confession to our Father who is rich in mercy lead to a firm purpose of amendment. This in turn must translate into concrete ways of thinking and acting that are more respectful of creation. For example: ‘avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices’ (Laudato Si’, 211).
We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world. They ‘call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread’ and encourage ‘a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption’ (ibid., 212, 222).
“In the same way, the resolve to live differently should affect our various contributions to shaping the culture and society in which we live. Indeed, ‘care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion’ (Laudato Si’, 228). Economics and politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains. Instead, they urgently need to be redirected to the common good, which includes sustainability and care for creation in acknowledging human contribution to ecological devastation and for a firm resolution to live and act differently.
“Changing course thus means ‘keeping the original commandment to preserve creation from all harm, both for our sake and for the sake of our fellow human beings. A single question can keep our eyes fixed on the goal: ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?’ (Laudato Si’, 160).”