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THE SPIRIT AND THE ECOLOGICAL ADVOCACY

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Homily for Tuesday of the 6th week of Easter, 24 May 2022, Jn 16:5-11

On the occasion of 7th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, we are celebrating this final week of May as LAUDATO SI Week 2022. Our first reading today makes me think of people who work for the big national and transnational companies that cause destruction on our environment. I know that many of them behave like the jailer in the story who, at the start, did not have an issue about keeping the apostles locked up in prison. After all, it was simply his duty to do so. As they’d say in Tagalog, their attitude is, “Trabaho lang, walang personalan.”

Whether or not those whom he guarded in their prison cells and who were charged of crimes were truly guilty or not guilty was simply none of his business. The task of determining guilt was simply not his job, as far as he was concerned.

Luke tells us that after a severe earthquake, when he saw that the prison doors had been opened wide, he thought the prisoners had escaped and that this would get him into trouble. He was afraid that he could be tortured to confess that he was complicit in their escape and he could be sentenced to death or his family could be sold to slavery. St Luke tells us he could have killed himself if Paul and his companions had not stopped him and presented themselves to him.

The funny thing is, after he saw that the apostles did not escape even when they had every opportunity to do so, he seems to have gotten convinced that they truly cared for his welfare. Now he is not afraid anymore to get into an even more serious trouble. Not only does he lead them out of jail; he even welcomes them to his home, nurses their wounds and feeds them. And then he allows himself to be baptized by them. I have a feeling that that was his last day of work as a prison guard.

In the same way I am sure there are many people of good will who just happened to find a job with a company that is involved, for example with destructive methods of fishing, or illegal logging, or the transporting hazardous wastes to poorer countries, or the operation of landfills that are called sanitary but function more like dignified dumpsites. And we can learn a lesson on how to get them on our side the way Paul had succeeded in getting the jail guard on his side. We too can get the abusers of environment on our side. I once heard the story of a woman who died in a landslide caused by an irresponsible mining company that was operating in their barangay. She could have gotten married to her boyfriend but her involvement in the anti-mining advocacy was causing some tension between them because he was working for that company. After that tragedy, he not only left his job; he also became a staunch advocate against extractive mining.

You have often heard me say, for us Christians our true enemies in this world, to quote St Paul in Ephesians 6:12, are “not flesh and blood but principalities, powers, world rulers of this present darkness, evil spirits in the heavens…”

This is what Jesus is also saying in our Gospel today. He says when the Holy Spirit comes, “he will convict the world in regard to sin, righteousness and condemnation.” I like the image of the Holy Spirit as an advocate, or to use a more familiar term, a lawyer (in Tagalog, “Abogado”). He will defend us against the Evil One who is described in biblical tradition as our “accuser”.

Jesus assures us that the Spirit is like a seasoned lawyer who will convict the world in terms of condemnation because “the ruler of this world has been condemned.” No doubt we human beings are guilty, such as of forgetting that we are mere caretakers or stewards of creation, not its owners.

The Biblical writer tells us that God made it a point to pause after each day of creating in order to assess the result of his work. For the first few days he did the same and paused and looked at what he had made and he saw that it was GOOD. After the sixth day, after creating man and woman, he tells us that God looked again at everything he had made and saw that it was: VERY GOOD! Why? Because in us human beings, he has finally created, not just another creature but a Co-creator, someone who bears his image and likeness, someone to whom he would entrust everything.

Unfortunately, we have often misunderstood our role. The evil one has a way of getting us deluded about what God meant when he commanded us to “have dominion over the earth.” We are filled with hubris when we read that line in Psalm 8 that says “yet you have made us a little less than a god, you have crowned us with glory and splendor, made us lord over the works of your hands and subjected all things under our feet.” (Vv.6-7)

As we celebrate this final week of May 2022 as Laudato Si Week, I hope we find time to review the seven Laudato Si goals as laid out articulately by Pope Francis in his encyclical about protecting the earth, our common home. Pope Francis enjoins us to feel the groaning of creation as we allow the Holy Spirit to move us to reverse the destruction of nature caused by centuries of environmental abuse and human greed. We beg the Spirit Advocate to defend us against Satan, who continues to hold nations, peoples, business empires under his evil spell and makes them play god. We beg the Holy Spirit to come among us also as an environmental advocate, to breathe on us and renew the face of the earth through us.” Happy Laudato Si Week to all of you!

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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