by Sister Therese Marie Dougherty
Making a historic trip to the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis will address the United Nations Climate Conference, commonly known as COP28, in Dubai on December 2. On the following day, the first Sunday of Advent, he will join other religious leaders from a wide variety of faith traditions to inaugurate the first ever Faith Pavilion. This is the first climate summit attended by so many religious leaders and the Faith Pavilion is a visible symbol of the common recognition of the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for swift action toward healing our broken world.
Pope Francis expressed this urgency so strongly in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Laudate Deum, that the document was described by some as having a sense of hopelessness. While it is true that the word “hope,” which occurs so frequently throughout Laudato Si’, is noticeably lacking in Laudate Deum, the Holy Father does express hope that COP28 will lead to more effective steps toward clean energy on a global scale. While he acknowledges that the solution to the climate crisis rests primarily with political and corporate entities, he encourages individuals and households to do what they can to reverse the “irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model.”
Advent offers an opportunity to examine our personal and communal lifestyles. Contrary to the commercial environment of this pre-holiday season, Advent invites us to take time to reflect, to wonder, to become more aware of the astounding mystery of God’s presence in our world. In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis notes the relationship between inner peace and ecology: “Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances? Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them. This too affects how they treat the environment” (LS225). The Incarnation confers dignity on everyone and everything in God’s creation. During this season let us open our eyes to see with reverence.
This Advent season of waiting for the coming of Christ at Christmas is a good time to reflect on the coming of Christ at the end of our life journey. Pope Francis writes: At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with us will share in unending plenitude. Even now we are journeying towards the sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven. Jesus says: ‘I make all things new.’ Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all” (LS243).