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A Scripture reflection for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

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by Dawn M. Nothwehr, O.S.F. | September 28, 2019

A Scripture reflection for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

September 29, 2019

Readings:

 

First Reading: Amos 6: 1A, 4-7

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 146: 7, 8-9, 9-10

Second Reading: 1 Timothy 6: 11-16

Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31

 

 

 

Today is the 5th Sunday in The Season of Creation (September 1 - October 4, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi) when Christians on six continents participate in community events to deepen their love for Creator, creation, and each other. Catholic actions during this time are guided by Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home. September 1, 2019 Pope Francis summoned Catholics and all people of good will to reflect deeply on the sobering reality that "We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own."

 

Today's Gospel is a "wake up call" for us. Like the Rich Man, we in the US live in opulence compared to others of God's beloved creation. Our use of fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas), food waste; intensive agricultural production; deforestation; vicious rates of air, water, and soil pollution; insane trashing of the oceans with plastics, and more -- has brought the Earth's natural capacities, to the brink of the impossibility of self restoration. Deplorably, it is people who (like Lazarus) bear poverty's burdens that are already suffering dire results.

 

Yet today, like the Rich Man, we have turned a deaf ear to the biblical mandate to care for God's creation and the more than fifty years of Catholic Social Teaching from bishops, popes, ethicists, scientists and social scientists -- and especially the cries of the poor across the globe. Few Catholics know that in March 2008 the Vatican Apostolic Penitentiary listed "ecological offenses" among the new forms of social sin. Indeed, how many of us have considered bringing such concerns to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Or, have we blindly accepted the consequences of our inaction -- "sins of omission" -- leaving a less than livable planet to our children and grandchildren? The Prophet Amos scathingly denounced a similar kind of inaction and injustice of his day -- "Woe to the complacent in Zion!" (Amos 6:1a).

 

What will you and I do together in the next ten years as Catholics and as people of good will to "pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness" (I Tim 6) for the well-being of all of God's creation? How will we, together "secure justice for the oppressed" (Ps 146:7) amid the present climate emergency? Mercifully, we do not face all of this alone. Ours is not the first generation to face seemingly insurmountable challenges to the well-being of the planet and its peoples -- WW II, 9-11, Brown vs. Board of Education, the hole in the Ozone Layer, landing on the moon. Together we can make a difference -- as Pope Francis entreats:

 

This is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew by closeness to nature, which spontaneously leads us to give thanks to God the Creator...to reflect on our lifestyles, and how our daily decisions about food, consumption, transportation, use of water, energy and many other material goods, can often be thoughtless and harmful...to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy...for undertaking prophetic actions. Many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions...We owe them real answers...Our prayers and appeals are directed first at raising the awareness of political and civil leaders. The words that Moses...come to mind: "Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live" (Dt 3:19)...In this regard, the forthcoming United Nations Climate Action Summit is of particular importance...in October, the Amazon region, whose integrity is gravely threatened, will be the subject of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. [To] each Christian man and woman, every member of the human family...may we feel challenged to assume, with prayer and commitment, our responsibility for the care of creation. May God, "the lover of life" (Wis 11:26), grant us the courage to do good without waiting for someone else to begin, or until it is too late.

 

The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Dawn M. Nothwehr, O.S.F.

Erica and Harry John Family chair of Catholic Theological Ethics

M.A., Religious Studies - Maryknoll School of Theology; Maryknoll,  NY
Ph.D., Religious Studies - Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI

Dawn M. Nothwehr holds The Erica and Harry John Family Endowed Chair in Catholic Ethics at Catholic Theological Union.  The mandate of the Chair is to promote the Roman Catholic Consistent Ethic of Life, advanced by Cardinal Bernardin.  She is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis, Rochester, Minnesota.

Nothwehr’s current research explores issues of ethical normativity – especially how moral wisdom of peoples beyond the North Atlantic regions enriches and informs classical Christian ethics.  Her ongoing research engages environmental ethics through the lens of Franciscan theology, particularly the effects of global climate change on the poor.  The dialogue between religion and science, as well the ethics of power and racial justice are of equal interest. Her study attends to mutuality as a formal norm within a feminist ethics of power. Additional involvements include: the praxis of empowerment of the poor and vulnerable, moral pluralism, and relations in moral disagreement.

A Board Member of the Catholic Theology Society of America, she also was Convener of the Moral Theology section and Co-Convener of the Women’s Consultation in Constructive Theology.  In the Society of Christian Ethics she is Co-Convener of the Environmental Ethics and Theology section.  Dr. Nothwehr was listed among the top twenty-five eco-theologians in The Heartland of the U.S. by The National Council of Churches of Christ Ecojustice Programs in 2012.

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