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According to the Pew Charitable Trust, my family is solidly middle class.  But it can be hard to feel that way when you are the poor ones within an extended family.  We’ve never had a home built.  We don’t jet off overseas.  And we live on the wrong side of the river and we actually like it here.

In spite of this, I’m amazed at how few materials wants I have.  One of my editors gave each of her writers an Amazon gift card.  I would put something in my cart and then take it out again.  “Nah, I don’t really need this.”  Or I’d try to pick out a new pair of earrings . . . but no.  They’re pretty enough but I don’t feel a drive to own them.  It is amazing how many things I can talk myself out of buying.

Poor or wealthy?  In spite of the opinions of those who scoff at my non-designer purse, my heavily used car, and yes that is a hole in the toe of my slipper, I feel wealthy enough. I’m above the flood line and live someplace that has reliable electricity.  I have a home and heat.

But I still find myself longing for a few things.  I hate injustice.  And it drives me nuts when people abuse the environment which means that I want social justice and environmental awareness.

Wealthy enough to want for others?  Maybe I can make that a thing.

–SueBE

 

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For every cause, there is a backlash. Express dismay at the killing of African lions, and you will inevitably hear, “Who cares about lions? What about the poor?” Express compassion for immigrants, and someone in the crowd will doubtless pipe up, “Forget about immigrants! What about our veterans?” Whatever cause one takes up, whichever banner one chooses to fly, someone out there is ready to criticize.

As if there isn’t enough love and concern for everyone. As if human caring had limitations, a “use-by” date, or came in tiny bottles that could never be refilled. The truth is that God is love, unlimited love, and God courses this love through us and to us, to be sent out of ourselves and into the world in great gushing floods. There is no using up love.

There is also no limit on suffering. People suffer — children, the elderly, all races, all creeds. Animals suffer. The environment suffers. At times, it can seem overwhelming. That is where God comes in.

God has given each one of us finely tuned sensitivities toward certain sufferings. Some of us feel keenly for animals. Others feel a bond with those suffering from a particular disability, physical or mental. The point is, there are no wrong answers. Just because your neighbor chooses an interest in politics as a means of social change while you would rather help out at the soup kitchen doesn’t make either of you less than. All caring is important. And all means of caring — whether it’s hands-on or in the silence of prayer — matters.

Instead of chiding one another, why not celebrate the diversity of caring, the multiplicity of channels for the outpouring of love? In the end, we all have the same goal in mind: the betterment of the world. That’s good. That’s what our mission on earth is, as human beings. We are meant to love, built to love. And no two persons are going to do it in quite the same way.

And that’s okay.

You gotta say this about Pope Francis: He gets people talking. His latest encyclical, Laudato si’ (“Praise Be to You”) has garnered both raves and rants for its take on the environment and the necessity of a human response to its care. Of course it’s impossible to make everyone happy, even if you are the Pope. Two leading disparagements of the encyclical can be summed up thusly: climate change denial and fear of socialism.

Whatever you feel about climate change, one cannot deny that:

  1. We only have one world.
  2. We must do everything in our power to conserve and care for it.
    These are non-negotiable. It is time to move past arguments over science and accept responsibility for human impact on the earth and her resources. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong?

There used to be a kids’ show wherein one of the characters had a show called “Yay Me!” “Yay Me” could be the human rallying cry — we sure do like to feel good about ourselves. Laudato si’ calls for introspection and recognition of sin, for that is what Pope Francis calls our mistreatment of the Earth — sin. And that is the challenge of the encyclical: No one wants to be called a sinner. It is far easier to argue over science or call Francis’ championing of the poor and criticism of first-world economics that most ill-regarded of words, socialism. Guess what? These arguments do not absolve anyone.

We do have a responsibility to good stewardship of the Earth. We do need to care for the poor and dismantle structures that benefit the few while marginalizing the many. Pope Francis isn’t the first person to say so, either. Jesus said it. St. Francis of Assisi said it. Lots of people of God have said these things over centuries of time. Inconvenient as these truths are, whatever your political leanings, they are, indeed, truths.

Human beings are not masters of the Earth. Yes, God gave the Earth to us as a gift. But God also gave us God’s son to show us what being a leader means. It’s not about exploitation; it’s about washing feet. Our mission and responsibility is to care for the Earth and her resources from a place of humility and service, not power and arrogance. Only by making ourselves servants, tenders of God’s garden, can we hope to preserve our planet for future generations.

Laudato si’ is all about humility and service. It is a timely and important reminder of God’s desires for us and for the world God made. Instead of arguing over its finer points, we ought to listen to it and heed it.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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