The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have given rise to an anthropocentric attitude, oblivious of its disastrous consequences on the integral functioning of the Earth and on human destiny. This is why Thomas Berry, one of the twentieth century’s most prescient and profound thinkers, asks us to go beyond, listen to, and take our cues from what he calls the shamanic personality, which urges us to foster mutually enhancing human-earth relationships. Integral ecology today is one of the most important sciences, and we all need to renew our human participation in the “grand liturgy of the universe”.
We need to appreciate what the day has to offer and reconnect with nature; the nature of life, the nature of being, where the beauty of withering is the beauty of living, where acceptance of living means letting go. This will eventually help us make our way out of the destructive chrysalis we have enmeshed ourselves in and slowly fly into sustainable culture. For this to materialise in our disenchanted world, we need to explore our sacred humanity, our sacred presence, acting now by living with intention in this great cathedral of Creation. This means having passionate love for all, receiving the blessing to become the blessing and making the Word of God become flesh in our being, as we all grow and journey together, adding beauty as we share in the vast creative whole.
We Christians who call ourselves disciples of Jesus can no longer navel-gaze. Pope Francis says that there is an urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. He invites us to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress that has been made and to recover the values and goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue and to our Christian experience. Pope Francis states that mostly people are looking for someone willing to grant them time and to listen to their dreams and difficulties. This is what he calls the apostolate of the ear.
As part of all that God has made, I dream of a shift from breakdown to breakthrough via the apostolate of the ear. Technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound, yet these are making our earth less rich and beautiful and our relationships more limited and grey. Today, parents have no time for their children and vice versa; spouses cannot find quality time to be with each other; teachers feel overwhelmed by workloads and long commutes, leaving them neither the time nor the energy to listen to students. Office workers, working unpaid overtime and living with the constant fear of being sacked from their jobs, are just surviving. Children and students have no time to play or interact with their peer group, with extra coaching classes just about enabling them to keep their heads above water. The housewife at home is not spared, receiving no help with cooking, cleaning, washing, caring for the little ones and the elderly; she finds her hands overflowing with tasks to be completed, before she flops into bed, dog-tired at the end of the day. Grandparents, too, often find themselves living alone and fending for themselves, having no one they can talk to or share their dreams, hopes and priceless life experiences with.
In this scenario, we need the apostolate of the ear. Through the practice of listening and recognition, we become responsive to the cry of the Earth. This is manifested through the urgent need and desire for fresh water and healthy land, as expressed through the cry of indigenous peoples of the far north and other prophetic voices, who call the melting ice-flows and the needs of the Earth and its people to our attention.
We need to listen with patience to the stories, the conversations, the joys and the difficulties of others. We need to retell our past, respond to the present, and tell ourselves what we need to do, slowly but surely re-inventing ourselves to realize God within. As Thomas Berry says, “The adventure of the universe depends on our capacity to listen”.
When we make quality time to listen to others without giving them advice and with an understanding and accepting heart, then the future will be born in us. Let us all listen to each other and to the Voice of Creation as we begin the Season of Creation on September 1, igniting and tending to this enthusiasm throughout the season and beyond!
Sr Mudita Menona Sodder RSCJ
August 19, 2022