Ecological Sin: A Maryknoll Lenten Reflection

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By Margaret Vámosy

Third Sunday of Lent

Sunday, March 3, 2024
Ex 20:1-17 | 1 Cor 1:22-25 | Jn 2:13-25

Jesus made a point of calling out the abuses of power in his day, including by the sellers and money changers at the temple. Today we are called to recognize and act on the abuses we see whether our own or those of others.
Some of those abuses are our failings in our care for creation. Most of us are not accustomed to thinking of environmental or ecological sin, but Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ made it clear that we also need to weigh our treatment of non-human creation.

People in the rural parish in El Salvador where I work as a Maryknoll lay missioner were stunned the first time our pastor said in a Sunday homily that those spraying chemical herbicide on their land needed to go to confession for their sin against the Earth. Those I work with raising environmental awareness and promoting sustainable food production were, of course, thrilled with his affirmation of our efforts.

The Ten Commandments are a good starting point for an examination of conscience, including our care of creation. “You shall have no other gods besides me.” How about the god of the market and consumerism? Are we driven by the notion that bigger is better, that production and profit must continually increase, that we need the latest model of car, technological device or even apparel?

“You shall not kill” the forests, the coral reefs, the insects that pollinate. “You shall not steal” the minerals of the Earth to stockpile as gold bars, the pure waters of springs to sell in bottles, the endangered species to claim as hunting trophies. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house”: the mangrove coastline to build resorts, the wetlands to build more factories or theme parks, the indigenous people’s land to build roads or to dump toxic waste.

Pope Francis, while pleading for structural change and multilateral cooperation among governments, also insists that “efforts by households to reduce pollution and waste, and to consume with prudence, are creating a new culture. The mere fact that personal, family and community habits are changing is contributing to greater concern about the unfulfilled responsibilities of the political sectors and indignation at the lack of interest shown by the powerful.” (Laudate Deum 71)

Like our efforts in El Salvador to reduce, reuse and recycle, to work together as a community to manage our watersheds, and to recover sustainable production practices, individual lifestyle changes and communities working together all across the globe can confront the climate crisis.

If only we could follow Pope Francis’ example and could all earnestly say, “Zeal for our common home consumes us.”

Margaret “Peg” Vámosy, a horticulturist originally from New York who joined the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2008, served in East Timor and Cambodia before her current assignment to El Salvador. Before joining Maryknoll she worked in Honduras and Ecuador as well as on a Native American reservation in Arizona.

The 2024 Lenten Reflection Guide from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns contains contributions from missioners around the world.

Featured image: Margaret Vámosy (center) leads a meeting of her parish’s sustainable agriculture group at her home in Monte San Juan, El Salvador. (Courtesy of Maryknoll Lay Missioners/El Salvador).

Questions for reflection

Thinking of the Commandments, what is one way perhaps you have sinned against creation?

What is one way you, your family, and your community can create a new culture by reducing pollution and waste, or consuming with prudence?


Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother
Earth who sustains and governs us, producing varied
fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon
for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
By You Most High, they will be crowned.

St. Francis of Assisi

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About the author

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, based in Washington, D.C., is a resource for Maryknoll on matters of peace, social justice and integrity of creation, and brings Maryknoll’s mission experience into U.S. policy discussions. Visit