Mass of the Second Sunday of Christmas
3 January 2016
My dear friends,
As I sit down to put a few thoughts on paper which could come together to form a reflection on the Word of God, the window panes are rattling beyond their normal level. The tall, strong mature trees in the grounds outside are genuflecting in the face of a mighty wind. The branches are shaking their leaves like excited cheerleaders working the spectators at an American Football Game. The News Headline’s just broadcast talked about a storm called Frankie which would rattle shutters from West to East for the next 24 hours. Many thousands of households are without electricity, and storm warnings have been circulated. God help those people who are waiting and shivering in fear of their house or premises being flooded for the third time since they moved in. Everyone is talking about the weather and most people are saying that it was never as bad as this in years gone by.
The Pope could hardly be called a weather forecaster but, over the past year or so, he has taken to talking very seriously and solemnly about our care of the planet. Some parents and many teachers have been doing this with their children and pupils for many years. In many of his speeches the Pope associates these problems with greed, abuse and injustice. When the Pope speaks, we tend to listen even though he claims no infallibility in this field.
A month ago, I read about a candle-light vigil in Bhopal in India which was held to mark the 31st anniversary of a gas tragedy which was described as the world’s worst industrial disaster at the time. On the night of 2nd December 1984, the Union Carbide Pesticide Plant in Bhopal, India, leaked gas which killed 15000 residents. Children there are still being born with birth and congenital defects because of their parents’ exposure to the gas or water contaminated by the leak. There are four centres in the town in use for the training of children with different defects. The Archbishop of Bhopal says that people badly affected have not been given the relief they needed nor have they been fully compensated. Is this abuse or injustice or both?
Andreas De La Cruz is a 40 year old fisherman from Mesinloc in the Philippines. Years ago, he used to set out to the rich fishing grounds of Scarborough shoal which is about 60 kilometres from the beach where he lives in a small house with his wife and children, on the edge of the West Philippines Sea. The reef is well within the 200 mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. All Andreas’ ancestors had fished off the reef. He has had a good healthy life from fishing. As prices and demand for good fish rose, so did his earnings. He was able to send his children to a good school. They rose out of poverty and had better lives.
Believe it or not, that came to an end two years ago. When they arrived at their customary fishing grounds, they found a large naval vessel there. They were turned around and told they were fishing illegally in Chinese waters. Andreas was shocked and described it as an invasion of the Philippines. His village has now been cut off from its fishing zone; they face ruin and poverty. That’s how the more powerful nations crush their smaller and weaker neighbours. The once impoverished and weak communist China was defeated by the capitalist juggernaut and decided if China can’t beat them, join them and so China did. Like the Western capitalist empire of the past and present it oppresses and exploits the poor through multinational corporations. They are stealing the natural resources of poorer nations and have been for a hundred years. China is developing into a superpower with global interests hungry for raw materials to satisfy its insatiable desire for unlimited growth. Is Andreas just another of the millions marginalised by human greed? Is China’s real interest the fish of the Southern Ocean or is it in fact the oil and minerals below the ocean floor?
Twenty one Heads of State form the Asia-Pacific – Economic Cooperation. They met in Manila in recent times and thousands of protesters demanded fairness, and an end put to the more powerful nations dominating the poor and excluding them from the western-dominated World Economy.
The poor and the marginalised now feel that at last they have someone to speak for them who will give a voice to the voiceless. Pope Francis says that unjust globalisation of the Economic System has imposed the mentality of profit at any price with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.
Many people would welcome Laudato Si as one of the most significant documents in generations. It is now available in Veritas. In this encyclical, Pope Francis spells out the damage being inflicted on our planet through human activity and aligns the Catholic Church with calls for urgent changes to lifestyles and energy consumption in order to safeguard the future of the planet. Pope Francis highlights that everything is inter-connected. We are custodians of this planet and we have a moral obligation to ensure that everyone has access to its abundant resources and that we hand it to future generations in a condition that is compatible with life. Referring to our common home Pope Francis warns of unprecedented destruction of eco-systems as a result of human activity. Drought, flooding, storms and forced migration are all on the rise. Laudato Si states “the climate is a common good belonging to all and meant for all”. This is the first Sunday of a new and leap year an -appropriate time to remind ourselves that there is an urgent need to protect something as precious as our planet, and our home.
+Liam S. MacDaid
3 January 2016