A reflection for the New Year, by Michael Holman

In October 2023, Pope Francis issued an apostolic exhortation, “Laudate Deum”, “Praise God” in which he reflected on progress made, or otherwise, on care for our common home in the eight years since his landmark encyclical, “Laudato Si”.

“Laudate Deum” is an urgent call to tackle the climate crisis: time is running out.

The Pope says the world may be near breaking point and, as always, the poorest suffer most. We will all remember the floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh, famine and drought in East Africa, and extreme heat in Europe. Can anyone doubt that we need to make caring for the environment a priority in 2024?

Pope Francis is hard-hitting. Economic powers can’t solve the problem since they are addicted to the greatest profit at minimum cost. What’s needed is political and social change, nationally and internationally. We all have a role to play, he says, in promoting this transformation.

In their book, The Future We Choose, Christiana Figueres former UN Executive Secretary for Climate Change and Tom Rivett-Carnac senior policy strategist for the Paris Climate Agreement, speak in a similar urgent vein, saying.

We can, together, reimagine our place in this world. As human beings, we all have the outrageous fortune to be here on this planet at this moment of profound consequence. When the eyes of our children, and their children, look straight into ours, and they ask us ‘What did you do?’ our answer cannot just be that we did everything that we could. It has to be more than that. There is really only one answer. We did everything that was necessary.

A tall order this may be, but Christ is victorious over death and because of him we can engage with hope with problems that may seem insurmountable.

At mass during Advent, we heard much from John the Baptist: an uncomfortable figure with an uncomfortable message. Only in this way could he persuade people to bring about change for their lasting good. He was preparing the way for the Lord.

The Pope also uses disturbing words but ultimately they are words of consolation, pointing out the only sure way to life for us and those who come after us. In so doing, he too is preparing the way of the Lord for us today.

Michael Holman, S.J., is the current superior of the Jesuit community in London, and also serves on the parish team of Farm Street Church. He has previously worked in a number of roles, including as headmaster of Wimbledon College, Provincial of the British Province, and as principal of Heythrop College.

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