In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we read the following:
Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us...what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end? Jesus began to say to them, "...When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed, such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains....But in those days...the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not gives its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. (Mk. 13:3b-5a; 7-8; 24-25)
Given the events of these past few months with one of the hardest winters that we have experienced in some time, with floods and snow and ice storms, and with the serious devastation caused just a week ago today by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan followed by problems with the nuclear power plants in that nation, can we expect some to wonder if these things are harbingers of the coming of the end of the world? We know in the past that such events or an event like the ushering in of a new millennium have triggered speculation and even strong belief on the part of some that the world's days are numbered. No one really knows when the world will come to an end - even Jesus himself stated that he did not know the time (as we read later in the same chapter of Mark): But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mk. 13:32)
I certainly don't know when the end will come but I don't believe it is anytime soon. We have yet to see the sun and moon lose their light or the stars falling from the sky. But perhaps this is a good time to ask a question: What kind of world are we leaving for our children and grandchildren?
We hear a lot of talk about the environment and what should be done to correct situations affecting our earth - the earth about whom St. Francis of Assisi (the patron of ecology) said: Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
How long will Mother Earth be able to sustain us if we continue to abuse the resources God has given us in the earth? We hear about "climate change" and some still hold out the belief that it really has little significance. How they can still feel this way is beyond me after we have witnessed the shrinking of the polar ice cap and the results of this in the wide variety of weather we have so recently experienced.
We need to educate our people and our children as to how the resources of the earth are finite and need our constant attention and concern. In 2002, a declaration on the environment was signed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. It would be well to heed some of the statements made in that declaration:
We are...concerned about the negative consequences for humanity and for all creation resulting from the degradation of some basic natural resources such as water, air and land, brought about by an economic and technological progress which does not recognize and take into accounts its limits....
If we examine carefully the social and environmental crisis which the world community is facing, we must conclude that we are still betraying the mandate God has given us: to be stewards called to collaborate with God in watching over creation in holiness and wisdom....The problem is not simply economic and technological; it is moral and spiritual. A solution at the economic and technological level can be found only if we undergo, in the most radical way, an inner change of heart, which can lead to a change in lifestyle and of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.
Similar concerns were echoed by the bishops' conference of England and Wales when they said:
Now...life-sustaining mechanisms are breaking down through pollution and abuse. In many places fresh water once teeming with life is dead, beautiful coasts have been turned into sewers, fertile soil lies barren or has turned into desert. Forests, often described as the lungs of the earth, are reduced to wasteland, and cities are choked with smog. Emissions of "greenhouse gases" continue to affect the atmosphere in ways that threaten the balance of life on the planet.
What can each of us do to create a healthier environment? We can begin with simple things like recycling instead of just tossing everything we no longer use into the garbage to be taken to landfills that are bursting. We can encourage our government officials at the state and national levels to put into place laws and practices that will help make our environment a healthier place for all of us. We can move toward, in the words of our present Holy Father, Benedict XVI: ...more sober lifestyles and a rediscovery of the "moral dimension" of development. He states that this development must be ...founded on the dignity of the human person and oriented toward the common good.
We need to take a new look at the environment and how we need to help it continue to sustain a good life on this planet. We owe this to our children and grandchildren who will inherit what we leave behind. But even as witness the devastation that has recently engulfed Japan, we can be heartened by the words of one who has lived through it and has shared some of her thoughts with family and friends. She says: ...Somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that is much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.
When he hear an expression of hope such as this coming from within great devastation, we can be heartened that there can still be a future for this wonderful world - this gift of Mother Earth from our Creator. Perhaps we can send prayers to God through the intercessions of the patrons of ecology - Francis of Assisi and Kateri Tekakwitha. Let us pray that our children and grandchildren will know a better and cleaner and healthier world in the future.