by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
In the second reading for this fourth Sunday in the Season of Creation, St. James declares: “Beloved: Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (James 3:16). Pope Francis underscores this condemnation in his Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonia.” Most of the secular media coverage of the Amazon Synod fixated on what were important but secondary issues: married Catholic priests and women’s ordination to the Catholic priesthood.
In actuality, the Synod brought to light several hugely disturbing realities in the Amazon region that are metaphors for the overwhelming challenges facing our entire Mother Earth:
- it condemned the monstrous human greed which has done incalculable harm to this gift of God, in our Common Home;
- it couched human greed in terms of the deadly consequences this situation has resulted for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon;
- the Pope again cried urgently for a global effort to combat this tidal wave of exploitation, of which the Amazon Region is just one horrible example.
This week, then, a look at the verse from the Letter of James, which the Holy Father has applied to a most vulnerable and precious area of the world, Querida Amazonia (Beloved Amazon). The following observations are striking quotations he drew from the Amazon Synod:
“The businesses, national or international, which harm the Amazon and fail to respect the right of the original peoples to the land and its boundaries, and to self-determination and prior consent, should be called for what they are: injustice and crime.” (No. 14)
“When certain businesses out for quick profit appropriate lands and end up privatizing even potable water, or when local authorities give free access to the timber companies, mining or oil projects, and other businesses that raze the forests and pollute the environment, economic relationships are unduly altered and become an instrument of death.” (No. 14)
“Nor can we exclude the possibility that members of the Church have been part of networks of corruption at times to the point of agreeing to keep silent in exchange for economic assistance for ecclesial works.” (No. 25)
“We need to feel outrage,” writes Pope Francis.
“It is clear that the original peoples of the Amazon region have a strong sense of community. It permeates their work, their rest, their relationships, their rites and celebrations. Everything is shared; private areas – typical of modernity – are minimal. Life is a communal journey where tasks and responsibilities are apportioned and shared on the basis of the common good. There is no room for the notion of an individual detached from the community or from the land.” (No. 20)
“All this makes even more unsettling the sense of bewilderment and uprootedness felt by those indigenous people who feel forced to migrate to the cities, as they attempt to preserve their dignity amid more individualistic urban habitats and a hostile environment.” (No. 21)
“In the Amazon region, one better understands the words of Benedict XVI when he said that, ‘alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a human ecology which in turn demands a social ecology.'” (No. 41)
Let us awaken our God-given aesthetic and contemplative sense that so often we let languish. Let us remember that “if someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple…” Conversion to an awakening of our God-given aesthetic and contemplative sense “will enable us to weep for the Amazon region and to join in its cry to the Lord.” (No. 56)
Reflecting on these issues and the light our Christian tradition shines on them, the Holy Father speaks to us:
“All this unites us. How can we not struggle together? How can we not pray and work together, side by side to defend the poor…to show the sacred countenance of the Lord, and to care for his work of creation?” (No. 110)
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.