New paths for environmental conversion in a world in crisis? Some elements for discernment

New paths for environmental conversion in a world in crisis? Some elements for discernment

2020_06_15 Reflection

Mauricio López Oropeza

Ecojesuit shares this input by Mauricio López on 11 June 2020 for the Extended Council of Father General Arturo Sosa of the Society of Jesus on Universal Apostolic Preference No. 4 Reconciliation with Creation.

Preamble: An apocalyptic hope

In these days, just in a few months, life has changed drastically and decisively for all of us, as a consequence of the pandemic produced by the COVID-19 that ravages our earth. It is impossible not to feel vulnerable in the face of this situation, above all because of the uncertainty of its true impact and dimension, for the implications it will have for our future life which will certainly experience changes in form and substance, and due to those women and men who will be impacted by it in the weeks, months, and years to come.

Uncertainty principle

In the face of this, it is essential to read this situation through the eyes of our faith, for those of us who are believers, and to offer to others our experience of acknowledging ourselves as fragile followers, redeemed sinners, in a project of a Kingdom to be built here and now, and one in which we are called to be co-creators.

A project that in the end we believe that, in spite of our flaws and our limited horizon, will open pathways into a new society of justice, fraternity and solidarity. One in which what previously was considered despicable or excluded, will become the cornerstone for weaving new life.

Fragility principle

We want to look at reality without naivety, that is, without idealized or alienating looks that are trapped in a non-existent reality, but with the certainty of knowing that we are called to be participants in giving a firm and consistent response with the faith we profess, according to our reality and particular possibilities; according to times, places and people (key to discernment in the tradition of Saint Ignatius).

Principle of hopeful discontent

This pandemic is an invitation to believe irrevocably in a creator God, and in His promise to accompany us, embracing our own role as co-creators, until we overcome this situation.

…“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21, 3-5

Blind Bartimaeus as a pedagogical model for conversion into caring for our common home in a broken humanity

I. Bartimaeus’ blindness as an expression of our own blindness as humanity

Immense neglect we have of home

If there is one thing that is obvious and unquestionable to the heart that is touched by reality, it is that this pandemic has made us aware of our fragility and of our enormous failures in the way we have decided to live as societies. We are aware of the fractures in our relations with each other, that is to say, in this pandemic we realize how tremendously blind we have been – and continue to be on several levels.

The predominant “throwaway culture” in which the logic of domination (of using and discarding) is applied to so many essential aspects of life, even in our human relations. This has led us in many ways to a point of possible non-return in the rupture of the ecosystemic balance. There is a growing fratricidal dynamism, and we’re experiencing some type of spiritual void. We are blind in so many ways, in a world where we seem to be losing the connection with the sense of mystery, therefore, with the sacred that is expressed in all of creation.

Today the scientific data are irrefutable when they argue that the climate crisis, a true environmental emergency, is the result of anthropic factors. We are responsible for this situation, as Laudato Si’ repeatedly states. In fact, the greatest ecological sin, and the main cause of this crisis, is explained above all by the current planetary inequity, and by the model of unlimited growth and voracious accumulation that dominates global society.

We have reached an unprecedented point where 26 family corporations concentrate the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% of the planet’s population, that is, the poorest 3.7 billion people. Also, 1% of the world’s population concentrates more than 80% of the world’s wealth. And, simultaneously, today we are consuming the equivalent of 1.6 planets on the basis of our global ecological footprint versus the planetary carrying capacity.

Too many governments and corporations claim that the excessive extraction and exploitation of the goods of creation, the so-called “natural resources,” is necessary to feed the hungry; but, today 46% of the planetary population is in some degree of poverty, and there are 900 million people living in hunger, when at the same time 35% to 40% of the food we produce globally is being wasted. These figures, just to show a few, express to some extent the evident blindness in which we have lived.

God has given us the earth as a gift and as a task, to care for it and to answer for it; we do not own it. Integral ecology has its foundation in the fact that “everything in the world is connected” (LS 16). For this reason, ecology and social justice are intrinsically united (cf. LS 137). With integral ecology a new paradigm of justice emerges, since “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (LS 49) Amazon Synod Final Document, No. 66

II. Bartimaeus embraces his blindness, cries out his longing for the encounter with the Lord, and abandons the attachments that prevent him from setting forth.

The crisis confirms what has already been said, what we are doing, and what we want to do for a creation that needs reconciliation.

Bartimaeus’ cry represents the cry of this entire generation, and that of sister-mother earth. It is the cry of humanity, all of it, which groans with labor pains in the face of the uncertainty of this planetary ecosystemic crisis, together with the crisis produced by the COVID-19. A pandemic in which the numbers of deforestation, the burning of natural reserves and of indigenous lands, the regression in environmental policies and legal conquests of native peoples, and cases of violence against the defenders of the common house, have increased significantly in the Amazon, and elsewhere. Human blindness and the phagocytic capacity of many power groups that do not understand the limits have not been quarantined.

Bartimaeus’ cry is an exalted call for compassion, that is, that others may feel what we are feeling and thus shorten distances to know that we are genuinely accompanied in this pain. It is the search for a new way of relating to one another; one in which a sense of mercy prevails, and in which a true capacity for communion with the earth as a true sister and mother is developed, just as the canticle of the creatures of Saint Francis of Assisi expresses.

Reconciliation with creation, following the conversion of Bartimaeus:

1. Begins with the process of acknowledging our own blindness, and our failure to fulfill the mandate to foster and promote life in abundance for everyone, and for all of creation;

2. Continues with the deafening cry for help when we know that we are incapable and responsible for having broken the planetary balance, to the point that we no longer know how to stop this crisis;

3. It continues with the unexpected act of knowing that we are called by Jesus to recognize that we are helpless on the ground, and by pure faith we stand up to try to take the new unknown paths;

4. And culminates in abandoning the old ways that contradict the project of a new heaven and a new earth, one that must reflect a radical change in the societal system that is intrinsically rotten by being a generator of exclusion, and a producer of daily death for the poorest, God’s favorites, the blessed.

In order to follow Jesus, we must throw away that blanket that represents our attachments and be truly indifferent, in the Ignatian way, in order to be worthy recipients of the message of the living Christ. With this pandemic so many things have changed in a little more than a couple of months, and many things should never be the same again.

What superfluous security, which we thought was essential, should we abandon as Church and society at this time (following the example of Bartimaeus who threw that blanket, which was possibly his only belonging), to prepare ourselves for what is truly new in a true reconciliation with the earth?

III. Bartimaeus asks for conversion (to be able to see), sets forth on the path to achieve it, and discerns new ways to love more and follow the Lord better.

The need to react as the single humanity we are without distinction

Life gives us an unprecedented opportunity to rethink our future and rebuild it from the ashes that this pandemic and the climate emergency have produced and continue to produce. It is time to recognize the roots of our existence as members of this earth, from which we come from and on which we depend for our continuity.

The following phrase from the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Maya, can give us light to undertake this discernment sustained on the recognition of our mud-humus as the origin of our finite existence, and as the element that God himself uses for the act of our creation in his image and likeness in the Christian tradition:“they plucked our fruits, cut our branches, burned our trunks, but they could not kill our roots.”

When Jesus asks us now, as he did to Bartimaeus: what do you want me to do for you? What is at stake is the future itself: what do we respond to this question? What does the Church and society respond to this question that forces us to look within and not to justify ourselves in the many good things we do? (Magis) Are we capable of assuming what it means to be able to see a horizon, beyond these crises, and to set forth following in the footsteps of Jesus with audacity and prophecy in the care of the common house?

III.1 New pathways to assume the conversion towards the care of our common home – 4 tripods

A path for personal and communal conversion

A. Metanoia. Radical conversion of the heart. Only those who are transformed from within can fully assume God’s call. It is to go to the most intimate part of the interior and allow oneself to be transformed entirely, and from the root to surrender oneself to what is the will of God. To embrace our Principle and Foundation so that all the rest can be fit in around it, incorporating in it the recognition of our origin from the humus: the earth on from which we come from and on which we depend.

B. Alterity. Recognize that the mystery of life, and the concrete presence of God, is only experienced through the eyes of the other. The deepest sense of being community, expressed in the Trinity itself, is found in the affirmation that states: God can be experienced individually, but His mission can only be fully experienced in a shared way. An otherness in terms of a preferential option for the Christ present in others, especially the most excluded, and a call to recognize our sister-mother earth as an alter, as truly another.

C. Parresia. To be able to interpret the signs of the times in order to find the particular call that God himself presents to us as Church, that is, to be collaborators in the building of the Kingdom; To unveil and denounce the causes that produce structural sin, not only to remain in the diagnosis; To embrace, recapture or develop the gift of prophecy in the care of our common home as an indispensable element of being a believer today.

A path for Ecclesial Conversion

A. Pastoral (Evangelii Gaudium). A call to a true missionary going forth; to go out of ourselves to experience the joy of the Gospel that changes everything in those who meet Jesus. It is to let joy be born and reborn with Christ in order to give a face to a renewed missionary Church following this mandate to go out of ourselves, with the desire to be evangelizers with the Spirit and for the care of our common home.

B. Cultural (Ad Gentes Decree – VCII, Final Document of the Amazon Synod and Querida Amazonia) Our conversion must also be cultural, making us the other, learning from the other. To be present, to respect and recognize their values, to live and practice inculturation and interculturality in our proclamation of the Good News. Only an inserted and inculturated missionary Church will promote the emergence of particular autochthonous churches, with an Amazonian face and heart, rooted in the people’s own cultures and traditions, united in the same faith in Christ and diverse in their way of living, expressing and celebrating it (Amazon Synod Final Document No. 41 and 42).

C. Synodal (Episcopalis Communio – EC). To pay attention to the sensus fidei, by which “the universal body made up of the faithful, whom the Holy One has anointed (cf. 1 Jn2:20, 27), is incapable of erring in belief. This is a property which belongs to the people as a whole; a supernatural sense of faith is the means by which they make this property manifest, when ‘from Bishops to the last of the lay faithful’, they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals.” (EC 5). And, in this sense, “Here it must be remembered that ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse, and every general principle… needs to be inculturated, if it is to be respected and applied.’ In this way, it can be seen that the synodal process not only has its point of departure but also its point of arrival in the People of God…” (EC 7)

A path for an Integral Ecology Conversion

A. What is happening to our common home and the human root of the crisis (LS Chapters 1 and 2). The “rapidification” of the changes and the deterioration that these produce affect the quality of life of a large part of humanity. Pollution and climate change, as a result of the throwaway culture; To acknowledge climate as a common good, addressing the issue of water and the depletion of the goods of creation, as well as the inequality of access to them; Loss of biodiversity, deterioration of the quality of life and planetary inequity; The need to denounce the technocratic power, and the crisis and consequences of modern anthropocentrism.

B. Integral Ecology as a multidimensional category (LS Chapter 4). Everything is intimately related, and the current problems require a look that takes into account all the factors of the world crisis. Ecologies: environmental, economic, social, cultural, of daily life, the principle of the common good and justice between generations.

C. An agenda for action towards an ecological paradigm in the educational and spiritual fields(LS Chapters 5 and 6). Ways of dialogue on the environment in international political spaces, in local and national spheres to get out of the spiral of self-destruction, transparency of decision-making processes, economic policies to promote human good living and the dialogue between faith and science; To reflect on the common origin and mutual belonging, and on a future shared by all to promote another way of life; To create another paradigm of environmental education for ecological conversion, to encourage joy and peace in a happy sobriety; To promote sacramental signs and celebrations for ecological conversion.

A path for spiritual conversion (some keys in Teilhard de Chardin)

A. An Incarnational mystique. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Communion with creation makes sense in human beings by the very fact of their origin and destiny.

B. Full interconnectedness.“The more we penetrate into the remoteness and depths of matter, the more we are confused by the interrelationship of its parts. Every element of the cosmos is positively interwoven with all the others. It is impossible to break this network. It is impossible to isolate a single one of its pieces without it fraying. The Universe is sustained by its whole.” Everything is related.

C. Total love and communion with all of creation. “To be able to literally tell God that one loves him not only with one’s whole body, one’s whole heart, and one’s whole soul, but with the whole Universe in the process of unification: this is a prayer that can only be made in the bosom of space-time.” A universal cosmic hope is the only one that can help us overcome this crisis, in this particular place and in this specific moment, and with these hands.


“I’m not afraid of the new world that’s emerging. Rather, I fear that Jesuits have little or nothing to offer that world. Little or nothing to say or do that could justify our existence. I am afraid that we might offer answers of yesterday to the problems of tomorrow. We do not pretend to defend our mistakes, but neither do we want to make the biggest mistake of all: that of waiting with our arms folded and doing nothing for fear of making a mistake.” Pedro Arrupe SJ

Mauricio López Oropeza is Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM) and former President of Christian Life Community.


One thought on “New paths for environmental conversion in a world in crisis? Some elements for discernment

  1. what an interesting, comprehensive, informative and action-oriented input!thanks for it, ecojesuit team.

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