By Federico Iglesias, Laudato Si’ Animator, Chile
The socio-environmental and climate emergency affecting the Earth is a reflection of the spiritual crisis that afflicts us as humanity. Like the trees that have become extinct due to the deforestation of the Amazon and the mega-fires caused by humans, we have been losing our roots.
Our spirit has been becoming arid, just like the inclement advance of the deserts in various parts of the world. Faced with this reality, Lent can be a good time to re-oxygenate ourselves.
We live in an increasingly industrialized society, which, while allowing us to achieve remarkable scientific and technological advances that make for a more dignified existence, has also led us to automate ourselves internally and turned us into predators of everything that surrounds us. The noise of the machines does not allow us to hear the cry of the Earth within us.
The challenge that urges us as a civilization, and to which we Christians have the duty to give an adequate response, is how to return to a new innocence that allows us to relate in a healthy way with creation.
In this sense, confronting climate change for those who follow the teachings of Jesus, and in general, for all people of goodwill, is not just about making every effort to make this planet habitable. As Laudato Si’ affirms, the challenge goes beyond that and consists in a metanoia, a transformative change of heart in the way we understand ourselves and our relationship with nature.
“This Lent, let us ask for the grace of Christ to redeem us from one of the principal sins of our time: feeling separated.”
A conversion of the heart
For this transformation to occur, it is necessary to open our hearts and our understanding in order to allow ourselves to encounter the mystery hidden behind every existence. When we abandon for a moment our narrow and exclusively self-centred gaze and open ourselves to what is happening, we are amazed to recognize that we are inter-existent beings.
This Lent, let us ask for the grace of Christ to redeem us from one of the principal sins of our time: feeling separated from all that is different from ourselves. We are intimately linked to one another, and the All to one, there being a cosmic order that keeps everything in harmony. If we allow Christ to remove the beam from our eyes we can see that we are Life manifesting and that this same Life flows through all things.
As Pope Francis invites us, we must fertilize the soil of our hearts to allow the “awareness that every creature reflects something of God and has a message to convey to us” (LS 221) to emerge. This invitation is a call to recognize Christ in all things, even in ourselves, because “the reality is Christ” (Col 2:17), and it is “in Him that we live and move and have our being (exist).” (Acts 17:28).
This understanding led St. Francis of Assisi to write the canticle of the creatures since only he who knows he is not separated from the rest of creation can treat the sun, the wind, and the whole earth as brothers and sisters. As the Colombian Saint Laura Montoya also understood, when in the Amazon they did not have a church to pray in: “They have no tabernacle but they have nature.“
How to live this transformation during this Lent?
Lent is the propitious time to open our interior to grace, and allow it to convert our minds and heart, so that we may recognize the mystery that pervades all creation.
A good practice for these days is to remain in silence before nature, cultivating the attitude of the heart of living everything with serene attentiveness (LS 226). For this, it is enough to simply look attentively at everything natural that unfolds around us: a plant in our house, the trees on the way to the office, a nearby mountain; or the people with whom we have contact day to day. What is important is not the spectacular things we contemplate, but the “interior impulse which encourages, motivates, nourishes and gives meaning to our individual activity” (LS 216).
To cleanse our inner gaze we can use a piece of advice given by Jesus: to become children in order to enter the kingdom of God, to look at nature again with a naïve and new gaze, free of all judgments and preconceived ideas. To look at everything as if it were the first time.
In the presence of a dazzling landscape, we have become incapable of quiet contemplation, accustomed to compulsively pulling out our phones to take a picture. To open our hearts during this Lent, let us move from “selfie mode” to “reverential mode“. The invitation is to stop focusing on ourselves, and develop an attentive and grateful attitude so that we can listen to Christ singing in all things.
It is an opportunity to fast from our own securities and re-generate our relationship with the Earth, allowing ourselves to be lovingly cared for by God through her.
Jesus’ way with nature
Jesus’ way of relating to nature is revealing: many of his parables are inspired by nature or country life. He marvels at the beauty of the lilies, and the peaceful life of the birds. He makes comparisons with the yoke of the oxen, the vineyards, the sowers, the seeds and the kingdom he likens to mustard seeds. Jesus contemplated nature deeply and used it to give us the essence of his message.
This Lent, let us open ourselves to a new understanding of reality based on our relationship with nature, learning to trust it. It is an opportunity to fast from our own securities and re-generate our relationship with the Earth, allowing ourselves to be lovingly cared for by God through her.
It is worth reviewing our relationship with creation: there is a necessary correlation between the way we treat nature, ourselves and God. Do you want to know how you care for your relationship with God? Take note of the way you care for creation. Want to check how your relationship with nature is? Check how you treat others. Anyone who says, “I am in the light,” but hates a brother, is still in the darkness.(1 Jn 2:4). The same could be said of one who does not love creation.
💚 Lent, a time to fall in love with Creation and its Creator. This Lent, sign up for the Laudato Si’ Animators Program: laudatosianimators.org