I don’t feel old all the time, but approaching my 77th Easter, I have to admit that I am old. This week I learned of the death of two dear friends – one in Kenya and another in Newfoundland - who have been part of the fabric of my life as a Sister of Mercy. That fabric has many holes and tears now – a well worn fabric you might say. But I am blessed to have lived long enough to have known rebirth into a new world view.
The challenge for this time of life for me is to learn how to live out of this world view more fully – how to live Mercy out of this world view; how to be an Easter person within this world view.
St Pope John Paul II described the shift in consciousness that moves us to this new world view as ecological conversion. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ spells out more fully in chapters 4, 5 and 6 what this shift – this ecological conversion – might look like.
It began for me with the new Universe story, which has broken into our consciousness over the past fifty or so years. This story tells me that my family tree dates back some 13.7 billion years to the original, mysterious flaring forth of light and energy that was the beginning of the universe. That fire and energy continues to burn fiercely in me.
It also tells me that my family circle connects me intimately not just to the human family, but to all the other life forms and life support systems of planet Earth. We are one community, sharing the same essential components for life, arising out of the processes of the universe and Planet Earth. In a very real sense, I am Earth become conscious of itself.
This knowledge demands that I turn away from a world view that sees the human species as separate from and over against the rest of the natural world, to a world view that sees the human species as integrally part of an interrelated, interdependent web of existence. Pope Francis encourages us to live an “integral ecology” which recognises the relationship between the economy, the environment and society. We can’t just focus on one arena without being critically aware of the implications for the others. For example, while the Adani Coal mine might be good for the economy in the short term, its damage to the natural environment and social cohesion in the longer term also needs to be taken into account. We need jobs now that do no further harm to the environment, that contribute to the health and safety of all life and that promote an economy based on contemporary science.
Mercy is compassion in action. As a Mercy woman, I experience a call within this new world view for compassion to become comprehensive compassion embracing the planet, its life forms and life support systems. How to express that, I am still learning. As an Easter woman, I recognise in the suffering and death of Jesus, the death throes of animals, plants and rivers threatened by extinction as well as the sin and pain and suffering of human beings. And I live in the Resurrection hope expressed by St Paul that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Patricia Powerll rsm.