by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
“Jubilee for the Earth” is the theme for this year’s Season of Creation. The Jubilee tradition dates from the earliest times of recorded salvation history (Exodus 23 and Leviticus 25). God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, commands the people to set aside one day each week and one year every fifty as times for the “restoration of right relationships.” The land and human beings are called to these times of rest – jubilee – so that the earth and all in it, including humans, can “right themselves,” recover and be renewed.
The Jubilee called for in the present Season of Creation applies this tradition to the crying need for restoring such right relationships in our times. It is a call to renounce overconsumption and economic systems based on constant growth, which are dramatically depleting Earth’s resources and driving impoverished peoples further into misery. The call is for people especially in the so-called “developed world” to let go of our frenetic activity and rest.
This is not at all easy in our culture of “doers,” where work is often an idol and taking quality time out is considered a waste and extremely difficult. Even the Third Commandment of God, “Keep Holy the Sabbath Day”, is generally observed as an afterthought, if attended to at all. But Jubilee times have proven a grace from God. Witness how Planet Earth has cleaned its air quality dramatically in these few months of forced inactivity due to the pandemic.
Pope Francis, a man of intense activity, celebrates and encourages the value of Jubilee rest. Surely out of his own solid moments of quiet prayer he writes in Laudato Si’; “Rest opens our eyes to the larger picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centered on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.”
The Season of Creation hinges on our Sabbath Days, Sundays. While more complete liturgical materials are still in process, we are urged to reflect on what is already prescribed especially for Sunday Scripture readings. It is uncanny how such “readings of the day” consistently lend themselves to appropriate applications for whatever is being celebrated in any given liturgy. It is suggested, then, that the Scripture readings for this First Week—September 6th, the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time—can help us to consider our prophetic responsibility to lovingly invite each other to conversion and care for creation in these times of ecological crisis.
- First Reading: The Prophet Ezekiel speaks in the name of God: “When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.”
- Second Reading: Paul’s exhortation to the early Christian Community in Rome: “Love does no evil to the neighbor.”
- Gospel according to Matthew: Jesus urges us: “If your brother or sister sins go and tell them their fault…”
- Prayer of the Faithful: “Holy One, may we take up our prophetic responsibility in the time of crisis to speak Your Truth to each other sustainably, justly and reverently, and to call each other into conversion and ways of living within creation wisely, sustainably, justly and reverently. We pray. Lord hear our prayer.” (From a suggested Prayer of the Faithful: 1st Sunday in the Season of Creation)
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.