The author of the Book of Daniel lays it on thick in today’s first reading: “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets…who spoke to all the people.”
These words are not addressed just to God’s people thousands of years ago. They are addressed to us, God’s people in the Twenty-First Century. To us. Now.
The message of today’s prophets is clear: we are on a self-destructive path, completely contrary to God’s will.
These living prophets, like Bill McKibben and Al Gore, cannot be blunter. To keep emitting fossil fuels into the atmosphere results in deadly consequences. We are destroying God’s amazing gift of creation in the name of immediate convenience and comfort. We transport ourselves in vehicles that cloud our blue skies as we heat and cool ourselves with similar CO2 poisons. We enjoy a world of petroleum-based products, from asphalt to plastics to automobiles at our own peril.
Consequently, the predicted environmental doomsday is happening as your read this. Droughts, floods, storms, and melting ice caps are altering our world in tragic ways.
But another deadly sin threatens us as well. Arming ourselves with enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life on earth multiple times over is the work of the Devil, plain and simple.
The third major social sin of our lives is the scandalous wealth gap. As the population of the world mushrooms, billions are left struggling to keep body and soul together while the idle rich waste their wealth on silly extravagances.
As a counterforce to these evils, these sins, we are called to conversion of heart by God’s grace. “But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness,” the first reading assures us.
The greatest prophet of our time is Pope Francis. In his preaching and writings, he calls us out as Daniel called out the people of his moment in history. The pope tells us now is the time of conversion of heart to turn away from fossil fuels, nuclear weapons, and greed.
Taking seriously his wisdom, we are invited to listen in quiet prayer for the Holy Spirit to lead us to live more simply and in total dependency on God.
In doing so we follow our own consciences and don’t personally judge others, which is the message of the Gospel today. No gossip, no badmouthing others, no shunning or discrimination. We are to be merciful as God is with us, which is a tall order.
By God’s grace, we will be saved from ourselves. Let us beg for this grace.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.