How does God feel about the Amazon Fires?

For years, scientists and ecologists have been sounding the alarm of a looming climate disaster. Unchecked fires raging in the Amazon over the last few weeks are a dramatic sign that we are destroying creation at a rate that we may not be able to return from. The Amazon forest provides 20% of the world’s oxygen and its destruction will have disastrous consequences. Climate change, as evidenced in the hottest ever-recorded summer in Europe, is another indicator that we stand on the edge of a disaster.

In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis writes that the ecological crisis is a summons to profound interior conversion. He says that “some are passive, they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent …what they all need is an ecological conversion, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue.” (#217). James Martin SJ reminds us that creation is a gift from God and belongs to God. Climate change has the greatest impact on the poor because they lack the economic resources that could buffer them.

I am ashamed to admit that until very recently I have not been particularly environmentally responsible. I understood that caring for creation was important, but I hadn’t made the connection that resulted in significant changes in my own life. I had not undergone the necessary conversion. Recently, it has become clear to me that apathy in the face of the ecological crisis facing us is a deeply moral and spiritual issue.

So what has shifted for me? Encounters with friends who are passionate about God’s creation. Reading a book by theologian Elizabeth Johnson – Creation and the Cross. A growing recognition that everything matters and everything is connected. If the life of Christ permeates all of creation then all of creation is important. Trees, plants, animals – whole ecosystems. Every decision we make has an impact beyond ourselves.

Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan noted that “spirituality is about the transformation of consciousness.” Our consciousness has four levels – experiencing, understanding, judging and deciding. Unless the first three lead to the last, living out and acting on what we have come to see as true, nothing will change. Conversion is about a change of mind and heart that changes not only what I think, believe or feel – but most significantly, what I do.

We are deeply relational. I believe that we only make significant changes when we recognise that it matters to someone we love. If I can begin to grasp God’s love for creation and God’s grief at its destruction, then choosing to care for the environment becomes the only thing I can do.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
MEd (Wits); MA Christian Spirituality (London); PhD (UKZN)

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
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