26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
WHAT’S AT STAKE
By John Dalla Costa
A few short days ago – on September 25th – the United Nations made a truly prophetic pronouncement, with its second set of Millennial Development Goals, called “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” World leaders committed governments to 17 objectives, including: eliminating poverty, improving health and education, securing gender equality, taking aggressive action on climate change, protecting oceans, and stewarding resources on land, so as to make the dignity of opportunity available for future generations. Anyone who examines the UN goals will encounter the exact same urgencies that Pope Francis raised in Laudato Si. What’s different (yet complementary) is that while the UN lays out the rationale for the imperative to change, Francis also explains the moral and spiritual dimensions for why, and how.
Our three readings today speak to our responsibility to be attentive to prophetic voices, and to heed the truth, whether or not it is comfortable. Moses recognized that the Spirit “rests” where it will, and that we all have gifts for prophecy. In a truly revolutionary turn, Francis applies this principle in his methodology, basing the church’s newest social teaching on the prophetic contributions from scientists, activists, and leaders of other faith traditions.
In today’s letter, James makes the point that what most impedes our innate prophetic sensibility – our own courage to recognize a situation honestly, and transform ourselves – is the “fattened heart” obsessed with wealth. Quoting Patriarch Bartholomew (the current Archbishop of Constantinople), Francis enjoins us “to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, [and] wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.” Notice that these virtues, rooted in the Beatitudes, are nothing but the practical actions needed for balancing out-of-control emissions, consumption, and social inequality.
Jesus issues the harshest of his warnings about sin anywhere in the Gospels in the context of doing right by children. At the very heart of Laudato Si, Francis makes the transition from his analysis to moral teaching by also invoking our responsibility for children. “It is no longer enough,” he writes, “to simply state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity.” (160)
Mark 9.38-43, 45, 47-48