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Prayer for the Lungs of Our World

by Cecilia Calvo

As we come together in prayer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reminded of our fragility, how interdependent we are on our Mother Earth and one another. We have one Mother Earth. One Creator. One human family. We are all united on this one common home that nourishes and sustains us.  As Pope Francis reminds us in his ecology encyclical, Laudato Si’, “Everything is interconnected.”

The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Through God’s grace and gift of creation, we are all connected. We breathe the same air and drink the same water. These precious resources come from the lungs of our planet – the Amazon, Congo Basin, Asia Pacific and Boreal forests. In their beauty and diversity, they represent a “sacred mystery” and “a space where God himself reveals himself.”

A woman and child paddle a boat in a marsh in 2015 along the Pomeroon River in the interior of Guyana. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Today, in our wounded world, we are struggling for breath. We have disrupted the balance between God, creation and humanity, and we are experiencing the consequences of that disharmony. Climate change, irresponsible mining practices, consumerist driven overproduction, the privileging of GDP over human development – are but manifestations of this disruption. Vulnerable communities – children, the elderly, indigenous people, migrants – are left most exposed to this socio-environmental crisis.

The lungs of our world, such as the Amazon and Congo Basin, are literally and figuratively on fire. In these essential biomes, we see environmental destruction and loss of “human, social and cultural richness” caused by a mentality of exploitation.

Mother Earth is speaking to us through God’s creation – are we listening to her cry – “the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor?” Are we listening to the cries of the indigenous and local people from these essential biomes whenever they tell us how their culture, land, livelihood and human rights are threatened by ecological destruction?

We, across the globe, are connected to this suffering, but we can move away from a throw-away culture and toward a culture of solidarity. For we know, we need a new way forward. Together we  can envision a new future in harmony with each other and with Creation.

Pope Francis calls us to see the environment as our “home.” He asks the Church and all people to stand with the original peoples, to respect their cultures and listen and learn from their wisdom and reverence for creation. We look to their example of “good living,” which requires “living in harmony with oneself, with nature, with human beings and with the Supreme Being … Here there are neither exclusions nor those who exclude, and … a full life for all” is possible.

To heal our relationship with creation and to walk with the most vulnerable, we must first be open to the breath of life within us, the Holy Spirit. The Risen Lord celebrates his victory over sin and death by creating humankind anew through the Holy Spirit (John 22:23), his breath of life. We must renew our relationship with creation through the breath of life within us and ecological conversion.

This interior change of heart can inspire in us a sense of common responsibility and action for our common home. This can motivate all of us to commit to live simpler lifestyles, reduce our consumption, and advocate for just policies and practices that will create structural change and lead us towards a human sustainable development that puts people and the earth at the center. Together, we can call for world leaders to take bold and transformative global action by implementing the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals that can help shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path.

We can choose a new path forward, embracing our unity and diversity – and breathing together from our cities, forests and seas.

Join Jesuit communities around the world to pray for healing and ecological conversion on September 25. Learn more here.

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