We gather in Tullow this Sunday morning, conscious that this is a time of new beginnings for many. In recent days little ones began school for the first time. Many more return or have already returned to schools and colleges, an end to the Summer season and of course the beginning hopefully of a fine spell of weather!
Speaking of weather today is also an important day in the Church calendar as we begin the Season of Creation (from the 1st September until the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th). Pope Francis asks all of us to embrace this season in prayer, in living more sustainably and in raising our voices in the public sphere. We are invited to think more deeply about what is happening at present to the Earth, the environmental destruction which now threatens our world, our common home.
Returning to the new beginnings this September month and this Season of Creation offers, I think of the late John O’Donoghue’s poem: ‘For a New Beginning’:
“awaken your spirit to adventure
hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk
soon you will be home in a new rhythm
for your soul senses the world that awaits you”
We celebrate this awaiting world, this world of new beginnings aware of the God who accompanies all of us at all stages and in all seasons …
Creator Spirit, you have given order, light and life to the world and you have expressed delight in your creation. You commanded us to till and care for the garden. And yet, we have trampled on the beauty of your creation and neglected to keep your Word.
- We confess that the way we live today is changing the climate of our earth, polluting oceans and rivers with plastics, and interfering with the balances of the life-systems of mother earth, and hurting the poor.
Lord, have mercy
- We have been exploiting the resources of our common home, stealing the birth right of future generations, and neglecting to care for creation as a gift from God to be cultivated.
Christ, have mercy
- We acknowledge that we have neglected to protect the biodiversity of our planet, poisoned the atmosphere with toxic gases, and failed to share the resources of the earth equitably and justly.
Lord, have mercy
May Almighty God have mercy on us, pardon us for our sins against the integrity of creation, and inspire us to work towards a new heaven and a new earth, Amen.
Glory to God in the highest …
In today’s Gospel, marking the beginning of this Season of Creation, Jesus uses the image of a Great Banquet to explain God’s vision for our world. It is a world where entitlements and privileges are reversed, where those who consider themselves entitled to the highest seats at the table take the lowest seats. It’s an upheaval of traditional social etiquette norms.
“The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” are those who suffer most because we fill our seas with plastic; because we pollute our air with toxins; because we eradicate indigenous populations in the name of so called progress and development. The theme for this year’s Season of Creation is “The Web of Life”. The most vulnerable among us suffer most deeply as the web of life begins to unravel.
Mention in the Hebrews reading to “a blazing fire or a gloom turning to total darkness” brought me to the Rain Forest Fires in the Amazon, where one fifth of the planet’s oxygen is produced; that accounts for every fifth breath we take. Once again we won’t immediately choke in the western world or the developed world, but the poor, the crippled, the lame will. Our faith calls us to respond to this crisis with urgency. Let us hear the Gospel message today where we are called to consider those on the margins, this includes those most at risk from climate breakdown, and let us commit to working towards a world where all are equally seated and valued at the one banquet table.
I think when someone as eminent as David Attenborough starts to warn that the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon, it’s long after time for us to sit up and listen. Pope Francis speaks about an “ecological conversion” or we face the fact that much of the earth will be uninhabitable for humans in 100 years time. I read recently if every family in the world consumed the same as the average Irish family consumes today, we would need 3.3 planets to supply our needs. This is simply unsustainable. The idea of infinite or unlimited growth while attractive perhaps to economists and financiers is based on the premise that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods and as Pope Francis said “this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit”.
A year ago a UN Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change said we had twelve years to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or we are in serious trouble. Remember the snow we had Easter last year? And in 2016 when floodwater embankments on the River Shannon at Athlone and on the River Lee in Cork were breeched? 1.5 degrees may seem pretty insignificant around Ardattin, Grange or Tullow, but the effect on the glaciers in the North Pole is already profound. Where will the waters flow when those glaciers thaw? Around the world it is always the poorest who are contributing the least to global warming but who are suffer the most.
The Season of Creation is a very timely reminder that the clock is ticking. Recycling is no longer an optional habit; it is the very basic and nothing more. Illegal dumping needs to be exposed and uncovered. Incorrect recycling needs to be corrected, what goes where and into which bin. If we are consuming too much; we are also wasting too much. Luke’s gospel speaks of “a wedding feast”, too many plates return to hotel kitchens uneaten or at best half-eaten: “I’m too full”, “I’ve lost my apptetite”, “I’m not hungry” – well there is someone not far from that banquet room would relish that dinner, that meal.
We will at the end of Mass plant a Mountain Ash to represent the commencement of this great season. I will be assisted by Eileen, Jim & Joe from Cairdeas; Tim from the Parish Pastoral Council and Ben one of your JPII award candidates, who travelled recently with us to Lourdes. I also warmly welcome Jane Mellet representing Trócaire who keep climate change issues at the core of their development outreach and of course our own Julie Kavanagh from Faith Development Services in the diocese. The Mountain Ash, also known as the Rowan Tree is a native tree to this region. It is distinct for its red berries that come in the autumn. I pray this tree and its berries will be a constant reminder to all of us in these parts to do our bit to care together for our common home.
I conclude with one of the many newly composed ‘Prayers for the Environment’, posted to me in recent weeks for entry into our Kildare & Leighlin Ploughing Championships competition where the winning prayers will be announced during the course of those three days in Fenagh. This one written by Tom O’Hara from County Sligo, is simply entitled: ‘Dear God” …
To the melting ice cap
Make us pay heed,
And to the great polar bear
Who is in dire need,
Make us study our actions
And what wrath they may bring,
As we begin our deliberations
With the onset of spring.
Make us look to the sky
Over-burdened with cloud,
And listen to the clamour
Growing ever so loud.
And take note of the flooding
That knocks people about,
While other folks sadly
Are dying of drought.
And for all the distractions
Which are causing dismay,
Make us ever-more conscious
With each passing day.
 Lk. 14:13
 Heb. 12:18
 Laudato Si, §5, 2015
 ibid, §106
 Lk. 14:8