HOMILY: 12th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

In our first reading today from the Book of Job, God asks Job: “Who created the sea, setting its limits, clothing it with clouds and darkness?” It is a facetious question, as God is clearly Creator and Lord of all things. God questions Job because Job has been questioning God with regards to all the misery and suffering he has endured. Have any one of us not done the same at some point in life?

Further strengthening the truth of God as Creator of all things, in today’s Gospel, we see Jesus rebuking the wind and calming the sea, so that people ask: “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:35-41)

In our second reading today, (2 Corinthians 5:14-17) St. Paul teaches us that since Jesus died for all, those of us who live must live no longer for ourselves, but for him who for our sake died and was raised. Whoever lives in Christ is a new creation.

Not only has God created all things, but in Christ God renews all things. St. Paul says also in the letter to the Colossians that “For in him [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).

God is the Creator of all things. In Christ, God has redeemed and renewed all of creation. These fundamental truths are at the heart of a significant teaching document released by our Holy Father, Pope Francis on Thursday of this week. The encyclical is entitled: Laudato Si, which is the Italian title of Saint Francis’ Canticle of creation, and means “Praised be.” Praised be the Lord of all creation! I wish to encourage all of us to read this document, because it is a prophetic call to usher in new era. It is a challenging and bold teaching, which calls every person living on this planet to recognize that the One who created all things is also the One Father of every member of the one human family.

The appeal of our Holy Father is stated simply: “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development,” (13)

This common home is a generous gift of God, given to all humanity to till and to cultivate. Thus, there is an inherent harmony that exists between the human person and creation. Such harmony entails a certain freedom on the part of every person to receive creation and every creature as a gift from God. By God’s generosity we take from the earth what is properly given for our nourishment. With this comes a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth, so that it can continue to provide for future generations. Because we acknowledge God as Lord of all creation, we are not to dominate the earth as a limitless resource for our consumption.

Many pundits prior to the release of this document thought that it was simply an encyclical on the environment or on global warming. Clearly, it speaks of these things, but it touches upon things far more profound, and is far reaching in its consequences if taken seriously.

Fundamentally, our Holy Father is teaching us to live in a proper relationship with God, with one another, and with nature. He wisely diagnoses one underlying symptom of our societal ills today is that we have taken the place of God. “A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot.” (75)

Pope Francis in calling for greater respect for nature is at the same time calling for a greater recognition of the dignity of every human person. “Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”. (5) This inner connectedness of all things is further reflected when Pope Francis says: “It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.” (91) Yet again he says: “We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”. (92)

Another diagnosis has to do with a world economy that has the single pursuit of profit and a technological model with its ultimate pursuit of power. Our Holy Father is calling for a world economy that serves the human person, not the financial markets, and a technology that serves the common good while improving the overall quality of life for all peoples. He challenges us to redefine the term progress. When he says: “A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” (194)

A basic teaching of Laudato Si is this: “Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.” (53) This basic plan of God is frustrated by a throwaway culture that over-consumes the earth’s resources, overlooks the poor, and undervalues the elderly and the young. He states: “When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.” (204)

The new encyclical of Pope Francis contains many more points worth our attention, but there is not sufficient time within one homily to speak of them. So, I’ll bring these reflections to a close.

Pope Francis is ultimately calling all of us to a serious conversion, individually, globally, economically, and technologically, to usher in a new era of human flourishing. Laudato Si offers us challenge and hope, as well as the moral and ethical road map we need to find our way. It requires our humility and willingness to embrace a simpler and more sober way of life. (224) This will require dialogue between people of all walks of life and of varying expertise. We are called to receive this new teaching with open hearts, open minds, and an open will to embrace the will of the Creator, who has written a law of harmony, justice and peace into the fabric of all creation, and the hearts of every human being.

Our readings today remind us that life has its occasional storms. But Christ is always with us. We are called to put our ultimate hope and trust in him. We are called to humbly live our faith in a manner that promotes harmony with God, with God’s people, and with God’s creation. In the words of Pope Francis:

“The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things.” (83)