Editorial: Our ‘jubilee’ duty

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  • September 10, 2020

The word “jubilee” suggests a joyous celebration, but that is hardly the context for the theme Pope Francis has put on this year’s Season of Creation.

The Season of Creation stretches throughout September, ending on Oct. 4. For the world’s 2.3 billion Christians, it is a period of reflection and prayer on all creation — not just the ecological health of the planet, but all the lives that inhabit it.

“Jubilee for the Earth” is the theme this year, fitting in that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day and, in biblical terms (Leviticus 25), a jubilee was observed every 50 years. But the biblical definition goes further, stressing that is was to be a year of atonement, of rest, of forgiving debts, of allowing the Earth to heal. It was a year, in other words, for pushing the reset button on humanity.

That may have been what Pope Francis was thinking as he wrote his message for the Season of Creation, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has positioned the world “at a crossroads.”

“We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving,” he wrote. “We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce and transport goods.”

By all accounts, the world has not been doing a very good job on these fronts. Greenhouse gas emissions threaten our existence as never before, the gap between rich and poor widens, multinational companies define greed, natural resources are plundered, Indigenous communities exploited, human trafficking abounds and human rights are ignored.

It’s not a matter of tackling one issue at a time. Each is interconnected, poisoning the environment in which we live, work and breathe.

It is tempting to think this is all too much to deal with, that we are just one person and we have enough to deal with without trying to tackle problems world leaders ought to be dealing with.

But it is our problem, and we all share responsibility in creating the solutions. That’s what this Season of Creation is about … to reflect and pray, as the Pope put it, on “creation’s original vocation to exist and flourish as a community of love.”

It’s also a season of action and there are a multitude of real-life projects that together make a difference, from planting trees to reducing waste to supporting charities serving our most vulnerable to encouraging politicians in social justice efforts.

It is noteworthy that, for all the doom and gloom that surrounds us, Pope Francis ends his message on the hopeful note that there exists an inspiring, ever-growing movement for change, much of it on a grassroots level and very much among faith communities.

Those initiatives can give us all cause to rejoice — and pray — in the hope that the next jubilee year can truly be a joyous one.

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