Toward an Integral Human Ecology

At its 14th General Chapter, which elected new leadership and set direction for the next six years, the Maryknoll Society laid out the case for an ecology of interconnectedness and committed to an action plan to respond to all life on our changing planet. The following is an excerpt from the Chapter documents.

In June 2019, Pope Francis declared a global “climate emergency,” warning of the disastrous effects of global warming and stating that a failure to act quickly to reduce greenhouse gases would be a “brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.” The 14th General Chapter unequivocally shares Pope Francis’ concern. Furthermore, we affirm the scientific conclusion that climate change is real and presents an existential threat to all life on earth.

Our Christian faith and our love for the poor compel us to respond to the cry of the earth, its people, and its creatures. In God’s eyes, all creatures of the earth are interrelated and in need of mutual care. Laudato Si’ teaches us that ecological sin is ignoring our interconnectedness and relationship with the earth and with fellow human beings and future generations who depend on our good stewardship of God’s gift of creation.

Our response must be immediate, because delay will add to the world’s suffering and make any remedies all the more difficult. Our response must be both personal and communal.

Awareness of our intimate connection with all creation must result in concrete action in and with the communities where we live and serve. Living and preaching an integral human ecology is the new face of contemporary mission. From now on, Maryknoll seeks to integrate the care of creation in all that we are and all that we do.

Women carrying babies make their way through an affected area in Bogra, Bangladesh, where floods have worsened in recent years. (CNS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters)

Women carrying babies make their way through an affected area in Bogra, Bangladesh, where floods have worsened in recent years. (CNS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain, Reuters)

Listening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor

From the comfort of our weatherproof homes and air-conditioned cars, with our well-stocked refrigerators and easy access to COVID vaccinations and medical care, it is not easy to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. In order to truly listen, we must open the doors of our hearts and minds. We must be ready to hear the unexpected. We must be willing to hear the painful moaning of Jesus on the Cross. “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’)” (Matthew 27:46).

The details of climate change’s impact can be daunting. They can stun the psyche and paralyze the heart. Diminished fresh water availability, coastal area flooding and crop failures are but a few of the projections that scientists are noting. As global warming proceeds, ocean temperatures are rising, massive coral reefs are dying and causing fish populations to decline. The human communities dependent on the ocean for food sources will be left hungry. All across the world, heat waves and extremely powerful storms are being witnessed. Such climate extremes will kill many vulnerable people and creatures in the years to come.

As missioners, we are called to look with new eyes upon all of creation. Mission calls us to cherish, revere and renew the earth. We are challenged anew to listen with open hearts and to recognize that the cry of the earth is the voice of Our Lord calling out to us from the Cross.

A file photo shows smoke billowing from a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Brazil. The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing global crises indicate that Pope Francis' encyclical on caring for creation urgently needs to be implemented worldwide, a panel of church leaders said at a June 18, 2020, Vatican news conference. (CNS photo/Bruno Kelly, Reuters) See VATICAN-ECOLOGY-GUIDE June 18, 2020

A file photo shows smoke billowing from a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Porto Velho, Brazil. The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing global crises indicate that Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for creation urgently needs to be implemented worldwide, a panel of church leaders said at a June 18, 2020, Vatican news conference. (CNS photo/Bruno Kelly, Reuters) See VATICAN-ECOLOGY-GUIDE June 18, 2020

Identifying with the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor

After we recognize Jesus in agony on the Cross in the cries of the earth and the poor, we must not cover our eyes or retreat into our comfortable homes. As Christians, we are called to realize our oneness with the Suffering One — to identify with Christ, the poor, and all creation. “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one — as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe…” (John 17:21). Jesus’ prayer demands that we feel within our minds and hearts the horror of the ecological devastation that is being perpetrated upon Mother Earth.

In connecting the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, Pope Francis presents an integral human ecology as the new face for contemporary mission, which recognizes that all creation is interrelated and that our good stewardship is a Christian imperative (Genesis 1:26-31). In order to identify with the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, we must realize that we don’t just inhabit the earth, but we are of the earth. When the earth suffers exploitation, we all ultimately suffer. This is most evident in those people who are impoverished and living on the margins of society. In the spirit of the book of Exodus, where God hears the cry of the oppressed and responds to their suffering (Exodus 3:7-9), we must identify with the suffering of the earth and the suffering of the poor within our own bodies, and in this way we will realize that our very existence and salvation depend upon taking seriously this responsibility (Romans 8:19-23).

To read more about the Vatican’s Laudato Si’ Action Platform go to: https://laudatosiactionplatform.org/

Featured image: An aerial view contrasts lush rainforests and deforested land in the Amazon region near Porto Velho in Brazil. (CNS/Bruno Kelly, Reuters)

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