Commentary on the Gospel of
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you may have the strength … to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke: 21:36)
Daniel asked for help. What did the dream mean? Who were the four beasts? Why did the last horned beast destroy the others? One horn had eyes and a mouth. This horn made war against the holy ones “and was victorious until the Ancient One arrived; judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High.”
Daniel was taken into exile in Babylon. The Book of Daniel was written centuries later during the persecution of the Jewish people by King Antiochus IV (167 -164 BC). The Jewish people of that day had no trouble interpreting Daniel’s dream. For three years, Antiochus “looted the treasury, profaned the Temple, violated the Sabbath, destroyed the Holy Books, forbad circumcision, and introduced the cult of Zeus.” The community sank into despair as Antiochus set out to make good Greeks of them. As in the boarding schools where Native American children were separated from family and language, Jewish culture was under attack. To outlaw one’s ancestors, laws, and customs brings trauma and death. The revolt of the Maccabees put an end to the mad designs of Antiochus. Native American boarding schools operated until the final decades of the last century.
Today ends the liturgical year. Tomorrow, Advent begins. Recent liturgical readings are apocryphal: dark days lie ahead. Prepare for wars and destruction. Don’t let your heart grow drowsy. Open your eyes. Come back. Now is the time to cry out to our God.
Data about climate change brings an apocalyptic mood. The ice pack is melting. Ancient glaciers weaken and collapse. Seas are rising. Acidic oceans kill coral reefs. The permafrost is thawing. Mass extinctions are underway. Droughts and wildfires devastate farmland and forests. Nations go to war over fresh water. Faced with starvation, families migrate. Without vigorous global action, 50 million climate migrants are predicted by 2050. The drumbeat of dangers keeps sounding.
In Laudato Si Pope Francis calls the earth our shared home. This gift from God obliges us to care for all creatures. No one has enough wealth or military might to survive the crisis facing the planet on their own. We are in this together for sure. Luke warns us not to be absorbed by daily anxieties. Fear is useless. Let us listen and act.
In Saving Us, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe finds apocalyptic moods numbing. Heaps of dismal data do not move us to act. She urges us to have conversations. Listen to what our neighbors care about. A planetary upheaval affects every aspect of our lives. Look for solutions that bring us together.
“Whoever we are, we are human. And as humans, we have the power to connect with one another across many of the broad, deep lines scored across our societies and psyches … We have to start with respect, and with something we both agree on: bonding over a value we truly share, and then making the connection between that value and a changing climate … Rather than trying to change who someone is, it can become clear that the person you are talking to is already the perfect person to care about and act on climate change. (229)