Not too long ago I was reading the Letters to the Editor in America magazine, and I was surprised to read a letter from Mr. Luke Westby from Chicago, Illinois, in reference to a previous article in America entitled “The Green New Deal Should Be Improved, Not Mocked.” Mr. Westby writes as follows:
"It is clear to me that our entire civilization faces an imminent, existential threat and that its prevention is entirely feasible, yet kept out of reach by a powerful few. When I go to Mass, I do not hear from our priests in their homilies about this massive threat to mankind. I cannot understand why this is not the only thing they preach about, and yet they do not address it at all. It is hard to turn to the Lord in times like these when those in our faith community who are supposed to lead and guide us in this practice barely even acknowledge that it is happening. I implore the editors of America to treat climate change with the urgency it demands. God’s creation depends on it."
The contents of this letter really got to me, especially since his words were addressed to me and to all my brother priests. I don’t have a comprehensive answer to this writer as to the reason why we do not bring in climate change more often—if ever—to our homilies. It may be that we are focusing so much on the Scripture texts for each Sunday exclusively, or that we find it somewhat difficult to make a distinct application of those Scriptures to the reality of climate change, or it might also mean that many of us do not feel competent to speak about climate change intelligently. However, I totally agree with Mr. Westby when he says that “our entire civilization faces an imminent, existential threat and that its prevention is entirely feasible.”
Here at St. Peter’s, even though we may not have brought climate change very often directly into our homilies, we have tried to address the issue in other ways. I have written several articles on climate change for the bulletin over the past few years, and we have had a series of presentations and sharings on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ for our midday renewal programs in the St. Clare auditorium. By the way, if you have yet to read that encyclical or if you have not revisited it for a while, I would suggest that now is the perfect time to do so. Pope Francis has many intriguing insights into the importance of ecology and its practical implications for our world today. All of us need to delve into the scientific aspects of this issue and not rely totally on personal opinions which may or may not be grounded in factual reality.
Much of what we are facing now and in the future is of our own making. We have come a long way of improving our way of life through modern day technology and enterprise. Where would we be if we did not have the electricity of today at our fingertips? But that comes with a price as far as planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions being poured into the atmosphere. We love the advantages of the many products we use daily that come in aerosol containers, but they also contaminate the air and cause problems. We experience an uptick in the devastating effects of hurricanes and tornados—both in numbers and severity—but we have had a hand in the global warming that contributes to this situation. It is not just our imagination that makes it seem that flooding of our rivers and horrific forest fires are increasing. We cannot simply stand back and play like all this will just go away if only we wait long enough to let nature return to what it used to be like years ago.
No! We helped create this mess, and we need to take responsibility to clean it up, even to the point of great personal sacrifice and national revenues and regulation. It’s not that nothing has been discussed and tried. The United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, with high hopes that something significant could be agreed upon after a series of high-level earlier meetings had taken place at various locations. On the final day of the conference, it was reported that talks were in disarray and only a weak political statement would be issued. The document did recognize that climate change was one of the greatest challenges of the present day and that action should be taken to keep any temperate increases to below 2 degrees Celsius, but no binding commitments were made.
But all was not lost. Representatives of many nations continued to meet and work at arriving at an accord that could be adopted and made legally binding. This happened at the Paris Climate Accord in 2015. This new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming. At best, scientists say it will cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about half enough as is necessary to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the point which, scientific studies have concluded, the world will be locked into a future of devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages, and more destructive storms.
At the same time, the deal could be viewed as a signal to global financial and energy markets, triggering a fundamental shift away from investment in coal, oil and gas as primary energy sources toward zero-carbon energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power. Michael Levi, an expert on energy and climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, has stated, “The world finally has a framework for cooperating on climate change that’s suited to the task. Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world, though, depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.”
The core of the Paris deal is a requirement that every nation take part. Ahead of the Parish talks, governments of 186 nations put forth public plans detailing how they would cut carbon emissions through 2025 or 2030. However, while every country is required to put forward a plan, there is no legal requirement dictating how, or how much, countries should cut emissions. Countries are now required to reconvene every five years, starting in 2020, with updated plans that would tighten their emission cuts.
We know what has happened in the United States since all this was adopted. Not long after he was elected and inaugurated as President, Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Accord and did not listen to the advice and wisdom of our Allies and the cries of the areas of the world who were most harmed by the effects of climate change. Thankfully most of the other almost 200 countries who signed the Accord did not follow his lead but rather decided to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of what had been accomplished. Almost we alone were left as “the odd man out.”
The great concern for climate change and the effects of not doing whatever we can to address its causes is still very much on the front burner. Scientists will continue to warn us of the very real dangers; journalists and the media will make us aware of what is happening all around us despite some people sticking their heads in the sand. In this regard, I was pleased to read in Gene Lyons’ column in the Chicago Sun-Times (Saturday, May 18, 2019) entitled Will Humans Act Fast Enough to Avoid Climate Catastrophe? “Public attitudes, in short, are changing fast. Even faster across Europe. But can they change fast enough to bring about the kind of vast, planet-wide effort necessary to stave off a rapidly encroaching catastrophe? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine human beings putting aside narrow self-interest and hard-wired tribal enmities for the common good. Put that way, I’d say no way.”
Many people are calling for this issue to be at the top of the list of topics to be debated openly as we work our way to the 2020 elections at the federal, state and local levels. And Pope Francis will be at the forefront to remind us that we have a moral responsibility to embrace Mother Earth and to make sure that we are able to hand her in a healthy state to our children and grandchildren! It’s up to each and every one of us to heed these calls and decide that we will do whatever possibly we can to make it happen!
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
The spirit of joy permeates today’s readings: joy for Jesus’ return to his Father and joy for what this means for us who are united to Jesus in our humanity.
Comparing the priesthood of Jesus to that of the high priests of Israel, the Letter to the Hebrews shows the uniqueness of Jesus’ priesthood. Through his Ascension, Jesus enters the realm of God the Father to present his sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity. Compared to the sacrifices of the high priests who performed this ritual annually, the sacrifice of Jesus is an eternal sacrifice that continues to be offered to the Father for the salvation of all humanity.
In today’s reading from Acts and Luke’s account of the Gospel, Luke offers a narrative full of symbolism of Jesus’ Ascension and Jesus’ promise to his disciples of the gift of the Spirit. As both man and God, human and divine, Jesus Christ has ascended to heaven. Our humanity has entered with him into the realm of God. By returning to the Father, Jesus, divine and human, has taken our humanity into the godhead, giving us confident hope that where he is present, we hope to follow. Included in this hope is the assurance that Jesus, who shared the same body as we, has conquered sin and death. United to him through Baptism, we will inherit with him the fullness of the resurrection in the life to come: “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy” (Ephesians 1:23).
We hear in the Gospel that the disciples, taking to heart Jesus’ Ascension, “returned to Jerusalem, with great joy, and they were continually in the Temple praising God.” The disciples may not have had a full understanding of Jesus’ ascending to the Father, but they knew their role was to turn themselves over to the Spirit in prayer. The Church continues to turn to the Spirit to discern how she should respond to the signs of the times. Gaudium et spes states: “The people of God believes that it is led by the Spirit of the Lord who fills the whole world. Impelled by that faith, they try to discern the true signs of God’s presence and purpose in the events, the needs and the desires which it shares with the rest of humanity today. For faith casts a new light on everything and makes known the full ideal which God has set for humanity, thus guiding the mind towards solutions that are fully human” (#11).
In the First Reading, the Lord tells the disciples that they will receive power from the Holy Spirit. Gaudium et spes reminds us that the Holy Spirit makes what is important known to us. The Second Vatican Council document states, “Our age, more than any of the past, needs such wisdom if all humanity’s discoveries are to be ennobled through human effort. Indeed the future of the world is in danger unless wiser people are forthcoming. It should also be pointed out that many nations which are poorer as far as material goods are concerned, yet richer in wisdom, can be of the greatest advantage to others” (#15).
For Your Reflection: How can you make time to quietly discern a response or action with the Holy Spirit? Where do you find your hope? When have you joyfully praised God?
SAINT PETER’S GALA
Our annual St Peter’s Gala is just a little over a month away—on Thursday, July 18, at the Union League Club on Jackson from 5:30-8:30 P.M. It’s an occasion for us to gather in order to share with friends, to have an enjoyable time, to enjoy some delicious food and drink, and to assist us in our ministry through your participation in the silent and live auctions and in the “Fund the Need” process at the end of the evening. We are still open to receiving items for both the silent and live auctions; if you would like to offer a gift for that part of the Gala, please contact Fr. Mario at 312-853-3411. If you have not yet purchased a ticket for the Gala, we invite you to do so from the volunteer in the lobby as soon as possible. Our goal this year is to clear $200,000, which will be used to help address our annual budget deficit.
MINISTERS AT THE ALTAR
Once again I want to invite you to consider volunteering to serve in some capacity at our weekday and weekend Masses. Without the participation of our faithful readers, acolytes, thurifers, cross bearers and Ministers of Communion, we would not be able to sustain our large number of Masses which we offer for the people who come into or who live in the Loop. We have been fortunate over the years to have so many dedicated ministers to assist us, but things change over time due to retirements, job transfers, change of address, aging, death, and work differences.
On the weekends, we definitely could use someone to read, acolyte and be Communion Minister at the Saturday noon Mass. Frequently there is no server at that Mass which means that either someone from the congregation must come up at the last minute, or the priest must do everything himself. Secondly, from time to time we could use an additional acolyte at the Saturday 5:00 Mass and at the Sunday Masses as well.
Therefore I am asking you to see if you might help us in some capacity. You can decide how often and when during the day you might be available. Please call Mr. James Kapellas at 312-853-2418 for more information and for answers to any of your questions. We will train you so that you will be well prepared to fulfill your ministry, and we will try our best to accommodate your personal schedule. I think you will actually find, if you volunteer, that the Mass will take on a deeper meaning since you will be more actively involved in the liturgy.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE ASCENSION
“Doctor, I think my wife is getting hard of hearing.”
“I’ll have my nurse make an appointment for her, but in the meantime, there’s a simple, informal test you can run to give us an idea how bad the problem is. Here’s what you do: start out about 40 feet away from her, and in a normal conversational speaking tone say something and see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response.”
That evening, the wife is in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he’s in the living room. In a normal tone he asks, “Honey, what’s for supper?”
So the husband moves to the other end of the room and repeats, “Honey, what’s for supper?”
Still no response.
Next he moves into the dining room. “Honey, what’s for supper?”
No response, so he walks right up behind her. “Honey, what’s for supper?”
“For the fifth time, Harry. CHICKEN!”