First Sunday of the Season of Creation 

September 3, 2023 | 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Ps. 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

1st Sunday of the Season of Creation. The Gospel. In the increasingly destructive impacts of the changing climate and the ecological degradation affecting so many, could Earth be trying to show us what Jesus was trying to tell his disciples? That increasing suffering and even death are coming? That in that suffering and death, the results of the sinful actions of the human community are being revealed? That light is being shed on the conversions so desperately needed and the paths of redemption and healing that are still open before us?

Despite the personal experience of worsening storms, wildfires, droughts, floods, and heat aves, despite the ever more disturbing warnings from the global consensus of scientists studying what is happening to Earth, far too many people follow Peter’s assumptions and mindset: “No, it couldn’t happen. Earth is too vast…. God wouldn’t let that happen…. It is untrue….”

For some this is simply the result of lack of imagination or information. For others it can be the result of disinformation and marketing spin. For still others, it may come from unwillingness to face the truth and to embrace the ecological conversions, lifestyle and policy changes so urgently needed. For still others it comes from valuing profits more than care for our common home.

But what Jesus tells Peter fits us here. Think as God thinks! God lets us see what’s happening in all its cruel brutality. Seeing the truth should set us free to act, to change, to find ways to avoid the suffering and destruction that are looming, ways to heal Earth. Showing us the truth is God’s invitation to “those who have eyes to see” to help create a more Godlike, healthy, sustainable, nonviolent and loving world. 

Carrying that prophetic message to the contemporary world too often meets the resistance that the Reading from Jeremiah expresses. The more we see and warn against the urgent, destructive threats of climate change to life on Earth, the more we are dismissed as extremists. The more we learn about the violent forces destroying the planet and warn of them, the more overwhelming the threats can seem, both to us and to those we approach. The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reveal how the worsening threats touch practically every dimension of life and can bring about massive destruction of life as we know it.

The refusal of people to listen or take the warnings seriously enough stirs frustration, fear, rage, and discouragement. Jeremiah’s bitter complaint can burn within frustrated environmental prophets today.

For that very reason, the responsorial psalm, Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9, offers a crucial balance to Jeremiah’s despair. Its focus on the power and glory of God revealed in creation brings us back to the contemplative nourishment that can restore our gratitude and awe, renew hope, trust, and joy in God’s healing, redemptive work in and through creation.

Finally, St. Paul’s warning to the Romans speaks directly to these crises of our time: 

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. That you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. 

This age has embraced violent economic policies promoting and supporting constant growth on this limited planet, ignoring Earth’s inability to replenish vital resources fast enough to keep up with overproduction and overconsumption, and failing in solidarity with the billions of people in desperate need globally.

In his Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in 2023, Pope Francis wrote: “Let us heed our call to stand with the victims of environmental and climate injustice, and to put an end to the senseless war against creation. The effects of this war can be seen in the 

many rivers that are drying up. Benedict XVI once observed that: “the external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast”. [2] Consumerist greed, fueled by selfish hearts, is disrupting the planet’s water cycle. The unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests are pushing temperatures higher and leading to massive droughts. Alarming water shortages increasingly affect both small rural communities and large metropolises. Moreover, predatory industries are depleting and polluting our freshwater sources through extreme practices such as fracking for oil and gas extraction, unchecked mega-mining projects, and intensive animal farming. “Sister Water”, in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, is pillaged and turned into “a commodity subject to the laws of the market” (Laudato Si’, 30).

Pope Francis goes on to urge us to “contribute to the mighty river of justice and peace in this Season of Creation … by resolving to transform our hearts, our lifestyles, and the public policies ruling our societies.” And he warns, “Economic policies that promote scandalous wealth for a privileged few and degrading conditions for many others, spell the end of peace and justice.”

In what ways can we transform our hearts in order to care more effectively for creation? How do our attitudes and our hopes about wealth and consumption for ourselves and for others need to change for life on the planet to become more just and sustainable for all? What can we do now? In the months to come? 

In what ways can we change our lifestyles in order to care more effectively for creation? What day to day changes can reduce the throwaway culture Pope Francis condemns? What changes in how we live will affect consumer demand and reduce global overproduction? 

What public policies in our societies contribute to overproduction or overconsumption, inequality, oppression, economic racism, or other forms of ecological degradation? What groups or communities are working to change them? What nonviolent strategies are likely to bring about the deep change that is necessary? What can we do to help in the work of policy justice?

Faith Reflections

Are you among those who believe in God who creates all things, renews all things, and celebrates all things? 

Are you among those who believe in God who has given Earth as a sanctuary, a sacred planet filled with God’s presence, as a home for us to share with all members of the Earth family? 

Are you among those who believe in Jesus, God become flesh and blood, a human part of Earth, who lived nonviolently, breathed and spoke among us, suffered, and died on a cross for all human beings and for all creation? 

Are you among those who believe in Jesus, the risen Christ, who is at the heart of creation, reconciling all things to God, renewing all creation nonviolently, and filling the universe? 

Are you among those who believe in the Holy Spirit who renews life in creation, groans in empathy with a suffering creation, and waits, working with us, for the rebirth of creation? Are you among those who believe that with Christ we will rise and with Christ we will celebrate a new creation? 

This is our faith. Through it we see God’s revelation emerging in new ways among us. 

Through it we embrace the promise that our deepest spiritual longings will come to fulfillment through the Spirit in the ages to come. Amen.