Last week I was talking with an old friend about skiing this winter. He told me that he didn’t think there would be enough snow. He went on to tell me that a drought was paralyzing the nation. When I got home I googled “drought.” All of mainstream news had alarming reports of “extreme” drought across the nation, proof of climate change. And I mean change for the worse.
I’ve been on this planet 61 years and seen dry spells come and go. We had a seven-year drought a few years ago and the reservoirs went empty. The next winter five good rains filled them back up again. But let’s say that the climate is going haywire. I don’t think it will, but it could happen—it’s happened at various times in history and will probably happen again. What should be our reaction to changing climate?
In 1846 Our Lady visited two poor children in a French alpine village. She was weeping because the people of that village routinely broke the second and third commandments: blaspheming God’s name and refusing to worship him on Sunday. “If the harvest is spoilt,” she told them, “it is all on your account. I gave you warning last year … but you did not heed it. On the contrary, when you found the potatoes spoilt, you swore, you took the name of my Son in vain. They will continue to decay, so that by Christmas there will be none left.” The villagers worked seven days a week, but the harder they worked, the less money they had. “I have given you six days to work. The seventh I have reserved for myself, yet no one will give it to me. Only a few rather old women go to Mass in the summer. During Lent, they go to the butcher shops like dogs. There will come a great famine. The walnuts will become bad, and the grapes will rot.”
Are there droughts in some areas and floods in others? Is the climate unbalanced? Is mother nature outraged? If she is, it is partly because we have outraged her by outraging her Maker. We commit all manner of unnatural acts. We kill our own children by the millions and call it “reproductive freedom.” The liberal synagogue up the street has hung a banner claiming that “reproductive freedom” is a “Jewish value.” Everybody knows perfectly well that this is a lie, that the Old Testament expressly forbids murder, not to mention the fornication that leads to this particular kind of murder. Our Catholic-educated governor has put campaign ads on midwestern state billboards with the blasphemous claim that Jesus commands us to abort our children (“Need an abortion? California is ready to help. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.’ Mark 12:31.”) But nature is not mocked. We mutilate adolescent girls after convincing them that their natural sexual organs were a mistake of nature. We reject nature’s gifts and expect nature to be kind to us? The vast majority of Christian churches in San Francisco, including many Catholic parishes, promote unnatural sexual acts, and then we complain that it doesn’t rain?
The first step to restoring order to the planet is to worship its creator, to render what is simply God’s due: making public thanksgiving and praise to the divine beneficence. In 520 BC, the Jewish people were returning from Babylon, from 40 years of slavery that had ineluctably resulted from their rejection of God. Many them wanted to rebuild the temple immediately, but the wealthier ones said they should rebuild their own homes first. Haggai the prophet spoke these words of God to them:
“Is it time for you to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies in ruins? You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied. Why is this?—it is because my house lies in ruins. Therefore, the heavens withheld the dew, and the earth its yield. And I have proclaimed a devastating heat upon the land and upon the mountains.”
Two things will happen if we refuse to worship God and submit to His laws. First, we will begin to see disaster, “extreme conditions,” and crisis all around us. We will become afraid of everything, even the natural gifts of God. Every little storm will terrify us, and we will hate and fear our own bodies. Resentment will replace gratitude and anger will replace joy among us. We will cling to human authorities and the technologies they provide for safety because we will have lost faith in God’s providence. Second, the natural order really will become unbalanced to some degree because of our outrages against nature. We will upset the natural order, both physical and societal, by our unnatural lifestyles.
The good news, all through the bible and throughout human history, is that we can restore the balance of nature by returning to a humble reverence for the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Harmony will return both to individuals and to communities to the degree that we respect God’s natural order. We will not be afraid of every little “act of nature” because we will appreciate the big picture, the beneficent authority behind all of nature. If we keep attuned to this natural order by keeping our eyes on Nature’s God, we will be plenty strong enough to weather any type of storm. We will not be afraid, but the praise of God will be our strength and our joy. The will of God will be our delight.
The above comes from an Oct. 9 posting on Father Illo’s blog. Father Illo is the pastor of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco.