For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance, a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
Blog September 1, 2016
As we enter into the Meteorologists’ autumn (September, October and November) and head into Labor Day weekend, students and teachers have started back to school, and eyes on are approaching tropical storms coming up the east coast. Summer is just about over, but the beauty of another season is beginning to unfold. Even with the possible storms, soon there will be glorious colored leaves falling from the trees and a panorama of God’s creation will begin to unfold. Families will go apple picking and cranberries will be harvested here in New England, and there will be many a child going off to the pumpkin patch to see if they can find a big pumpkin that may be carved into the perfect jack-o-lantern and a few smaller ones that may make it into pies and breads and scones.
September 1st also marks another observance. Pope Francis reminded us today that in 2007, the Third Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu proposed celebrating a “Time for Creation” or a five week period starting today, September 1st (the Orthodox commemoration of the beginning of God’s creation) to October 4th, the feast of St. Francis Assisi, a feast in the Catholic Church and some Western traditions. The World Council of Churches also supports this initiative. It is a call to work together for environmental justice, or to roll up our sleeves and start taking better care of our planet. In lieu of that, Pope Francis has directed today that care for our planet now be ranked among the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, especially in this Year of Mercy.
Last year, Pope Francis penned his encyclical, Laudato Si, on caring for our common home, and while encyclicals are usually addressed to Catholics, this one went a bit beyond that readership. He implored not only all faiths, or all men and women of good will, but everyone living on this planet. Such is the dire need to address the plight of our living space and our Common Home. His entire message on this "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation" is found at this link:
At Mystical Ventures, a site dedicated to sustainable living and caring for the earth, alongside our Catholic principles, we decided that this year would be a good year to unpack the teachings of Laudato Si, and see how they might apply to us living in rural New England. The Pope in his message approaches the problem in true Ignatian format with an examen of sorts. Caring for the planet first of all calls for prayers of gratitude and contemplation. Our planet is a gift. But we have sinned against it. We have not cared for it as we should. We need to examine our consciences to see what we have done not only to harm the various biosystems, but the poor and future generations who also depend on this earth.
Acknowledging our sins should lead us to repentance, Confession and a firm purpose of amendment to do better, to try harder. The pope gives us concrete examples of what we can do from not consuming more than we need, to turning off light bulbs, or curtailing our use of plastics. In our area of the country, especially since it is semi-rural and many use the land in various ways, we should be able to come up with multiple ways in which we can care for the earth as an old Indian proverb has said:
"to the seventh generation . . . In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation . . . even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine."
This is an often repeated saying, and most who use it claim that it comes from “The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations," or the The Great Binding Law.
Summer giving way to autumn . . .
Of course, as soon as the fireworks stop from the 4th of July, the school shopping ads come out and stores are trying to entice us to go school shopping . . . didn’t the kids just get out of school? When our children were home and school age, this was the crazy time, trying to see who needed new shoes and jackets and school supplies, and what could be passed down from one child to the next one (do families still do that?). Autumn has long been my favorite time of the year. My birthday is in October and so was my Mom’s. We shared the same day and it was always special for that reason. The colors in New England are magnificent as well and I always thought that that was God’ birthday present to the two of us. I also remember, though, along with numerous moms in town, that when that school bus finally rolled around for that first day of school, there was this collective “Thank You, God!! They’re back in school!” going up all across town. After that, as fall settled, it, one could almost hear the children growing . . .
Within the past week, we have made two summer trips to my son’s home two hours away, one, to see his new home (with a pool – it’s been unbelievably hot here) and two, to celebrate our granddaughter’s 5th birthday. This weekend, we also heard proclaimed in the Gospel the story of the narrow gate, how we are all called to enter the narrow gate to the Lord. One homilist talked about how all of us carrying two suitcases, one filled with memories of all the things we’ve done bad or hurtful pains of our past life and the other suitcase, all the good things we have done in our lives. He told us that in order for us to go through that narrow gate, we needed to let go or drop both suitcases, for nothing we have done is outside of God’s mercy and nothing we have done could ever have earned us salvation. Another homilist talked about that gate or that door being a “man door” or a door through which only one man could fit – it is the door to Christ and we each have to go in, one at a time. He challenged us to ask ourselves if that was the door to which we are aiming – or is that just another entryway in our world that we look at from time to time? Are we singularly focused on that door or gate? Are all our energies directed toward that door or gate?
I learned a lesson from my 5-year old granddaughter about singularity of attention this past week. Abby is learning how to swim. Since she is in her new home with a pool, each day she is getting a little braver and trying to “go deeper”. A week ago, I was in the pool with her, laughing and jumping around in the water, and frolicking along with our 4 year old and 5 and ½ year old grandsons from another daughter. Abby wanted to learn how to put her face in the water and swim. She was trying, but a little apprehensive. We were in the shallow end, and I took her two little hands and pulled her around in circles and weaved in and out, just for fun. Then I let go and said, “OK, now you swim to me,” and I stepped back a few paces. Again and again, she tried it and was laughing all the time. She still wanted to put her face in the water and go underwater, so she finally did. Each time she tried, I caught her two little hands with my hands and the more we did it, the more confident she became. By the end of the day, she jumped off the diving board, went under and came up and I caught her two little hands once more. She did it! She was able to do that because of the marvelous attention and singular focus of a 5 – year old and because she knew I was there to catch her until she got it. She wasn’t looking for anything else except my two hands. That is singularity of attention! Do we walk through life with our eyes on the prize (Phil. 3:13-14)? Do we walk through door after door, with our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ? Do we need someone on the other side with two hands ready to catch us? or pull us through? I would say that the Holy Spirit provides those hands for us in each of the members of Christ’s body. Scores of people in our lives offer those two hands to help us stay focused, to pull us along, or to pull us through the doors or that narrow gate. We have only to open our eyes! And hold on! Once through that narrow gate, we can begin to appreciate autumn or fall, and we can actually hear each other grow!
As we begin another school year, may we all pull each other along, to help keep us focused and our eyes on the prize. May we all teach each other how to care for our Common Home, and may we all extend our hands to those in need and not be afraid to grasp onto the hands extended to help us through those narrow gates!