Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope Francis and His Encouragement To Us All At The United Nations

This morning, as the Pope took time to address the United Nations during his visit to the United States, he seemed to be speaking to a number of issues that have been on mine and Jamie’s hearts and minds for quite some time. I’m personally very grateful that Pope Francis is using his position, popularity, and influence to entreat the consciences of the global community. To read his full speech, click here.

First let’s consider his remarks regarding care of our common home. There will be some who want to transform the Pope’s statement into a debate with regard to whether climate change is real. But maybe rather than debating climate change, we should each realize we have a sacred responsibility to care for and wisely steward the limited resources of this world. What would it look like for each of us to begin to live more simply, and take into account the impact of every decision from travel, to energy usage, to the very products we purchase? What would it look like for you to live more simply? Is there a step you can take to be a better steward?

Although I started this post talking about the Pope’s perspective on environmental care, I have long believed that care for this earth is directly connected to care for our neighbors. Not just our neighbors in the here and now, but those who have not yet been born. In many Native American traditions, including my own, we are encouraged to consider the impact of our decisions on future generations. There is very little in the way we are culturally encouraged to live that encourages long-term impact. We gravitate to the immediate because it is convenient. We have become a self-indulgent culture with little concern for how our actions and activities have an impact on others. We have become polluters, not only of the environment, but of the very essence of shalom in this world.

And what does it mean to care for our neighbor? If you live in America, by default you are in at least the 95% percentile of the wealthiest people in the world. You are one of the top five percent of the global rich. So what does it mean to care for our neighbors who are poor? I believe it means that we practice a discipline of generosity. We look for opportunities to serve and to invest in the lives of others. We resist the tendency to care for ourselves first.

We live in a complex and complicated world. But we can exercise self-discipline and choose to live lives of greater simplicity. We can choose to live lives that are unencumbered by excess material goods. We can choose to resist the almost fanatical devotion our culture has to collecting stuff, generating waste, and treating people and things as disposable resources. Every person on this earth was created by God for a unique purpose. Every thing on this earth has been entrusted to us by an abundantly generous Creator who encourages us to care for this world, and calls us to greater dedication to wise stewardship.

The Pope, through his words, is encouraging us to consider the great power and influence each one of us has in this world. Instead of our own indulgences, what if we were using that power and influence to facilitate the improvement of the lives of our global neighbors. What if we were dedicating time and energy to equipping others with the tools they need to improve their lives, to be able to make meaningful choices, choices most of us take for granted?

May we take decisive action to be better stewards of this earth that has been entrusted to our care by the Creator of the universe. May we take decisive action to lower our ecological footprints. May we be a people who are not just “concerned” for our neighbors living in extreme poverty, but may we be people who are actively engaged in recognizing the inherent dignity of every person on this earth and working toward a better world for all.  May we use the power and influence we have been entrusted with to build a better world for others, for future generations, and for those who, for a number of reasons, we will likely never meet. And, quite simply, as we go about our day, today may we consider others around us more important than ourselves.

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