Understanding Jesus’ Invitation In The Contemporary World
Realize connections and reject the hypocrisies
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1, 15). This is the first utterance from Jesus in the gospel of Mark. Interestingly his invitation is to convert to the ideals and values of the kingdom of God. It is worth remembering that many people do follow him; probably the one group who felt that the invitation is not for us is a certain group of Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Let’s not engage in blaming them.
The interesting point, which is relevant for many of our contemporary discussions, is the aspect of conversion. I have heard innumerable times from the preachers that it is a complete turnover; in a mathematical language, it is a 180-degree turn. I am not commenting on that, but the point that is interesting for me is…. Jesus is inviting for the conversion of the whole person to the values of the kingdom.
All the various dynamics which you like to include (political, social, cultural, familial, ecological, etc) are part of that act. I feel this is the part, where Pharisees got it wrong. They didn’t find a serious error in the dichotomy existing between actions and words, or between different dimensions of life.
If you happen to read the famous ecological encyclical of Pope Francis -Laudato Si, it has an interesting invitation from Pope France. It is an invitation to integral ecology. He describes many dimensions of integral ecology in the fourth chapter of the encyclical.
- Environmental, social and economic dimensions are connected.
- Cultural patrimony which is under serious threat.
- Ecology of everyday life (which is applicable to different people in different ways).
- Principle of common good
- Justice between generations.
If you are interested to read more about each of the dimensions, it is better to read the fourth chapter. But one point he drives home constantly is that life (of the entire creation) is interrelated, and so too various crises in the world. Thus integral ecology is an approach that attempts to see various of those linked dimensions and their interconnectedness. Probably none would be able to find all the interconnections, but it would be foolish to attempt to find a piecemeal solution to any problem, forgetting its connected links and dimensions.
A beautiful take by Niall Leahy is quite interesting,
Pope Francis is not saying that there is one perfect ready-made, one-size-fits-all, (deep breath…) socio-eco-agri-economic-cultural-political system that can be rolled out tomorrow all over the world which will solve all our problems. It is precisely that kind of thinking that got us into this crisis in the first place. In fact he wants us to respect our local circumstances and cultural heritages and build from the ground up in a way that integrates every important aspect of life.
Pope gives the example of St Francis of Assissi as the example of someone who followed integral ecology.
He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.(Laudato Si, 10).
Integral ecology in one sense is the same conversion called by Jesus in the gospels, a conversion of the entire life into the values of the Kingdom of God. I find many simple characters in the Bible (like Mary Magdelene) as beautiful examples of people who are models of this integral conversion.
I can no more say that I only see God in the Church/temple or in my fellow believers. I am invited to see that same God acting in various dimensions of the world. I am called to be a part of the many fights against injustice existing in the world (not just what I like and love). I am called to fight against my own hypocrisies and dichotomies.
During the school assembly, we used to recite a pledge every morning:- “India is my country, All Indians are my brothers and sisters…” (anyway that itself is still an ideal, but we need to expand it). All the creations are related to me, and I do respect and love them. Let’s initiate revolutions of tenderness and fraternity with every human being and the entire creation.
Thanks to Dominique Coatanea (professor at Centre Sèvres) for introducing some of the ideas in a seminar. Thanks to Trent Kenney for the editing help.