Thursday of Second Week in Course 2016
Joy of the Gospel
The readings today remind me of the cynical epigram: No good deed goes unpunished. David was the champion of Israel, defeating the Philistines time after time. Still, king Saul, who was probably suffering from a long-lasting clinical depression, maybe even demonic possession, was so insanely jealous of him that on several occasions he tried to kill him or have him murdered. Jesus, the very embodiment of the compassion and mercy of the Father, was so effective in his preaching and healing that he always needed an escape route from the huge crowds. After all, His mission was to end with His death and resurrection in Jerusalem.
The mercy of God is always directed toward our good, and He shows special concern for the defenseless and poor who suffer because of the ill will of others. In his encyclical, the Holy Father has been speaking of our need to protect children before birth. He has been very direct before, but now he almost gets political: ‘[since] this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question [of abortion]. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?’
Now I don’t want to disagree with the Pope, but in this country there are literally hundreds of ministries involved with “adequately accompanying women in very difficult situations.” Since 1973, the anniversary of which Supreme Court abomination occurs tomorrow, the Church has devoted countless hours to this end. But the Holy Father continues with a more general concern about the weak and our duty toward them:
‘There are other weak and defenceless beings who are frequently at the mercy of economic interests or indiscriminate exploitation. I am speaking of creation as a whole. We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations. Here I would make my own the touching and prophetic lament voiced some years ago by the bishops of the Philippines: “An incredible variety of insects lived in the forest and were busy with all kinds of tasks… Birds flew through the air, their bright plumes and varying calls adding color and song to the green of the forests… God intended this land for us, his special creatures, but not so that we might destroy it and turn it into a wasteland… After a single night’s rain, look at the chocolate brown rivers in your locality and remember that they are carrying the life blood of the land into the sea… How can fish swim in sewers like the Pasig and so many more rivers which we have polluted? Who has turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?” Small yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples.’
We can hear in these last words the seeds of the Pope’s latest encyclical on our stewardship of the earth. We are now about 80% finished with the encyclical on the Joy of the Gospel. It has been a long trek–almost two years–but as it draws to a climax, in the next few weeks before Lent we will consider his words about peace.