First published in The Criterion on March 3, 2017
“It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected.”—Pope Francis, “Laudato Si, on Care for Our Common Home,” #138
Two weeks ago, my wife Julie and I were lucky enough to be standing in the Vatican at an audience with Pope Francis with 1,200 supporters of the Economy of Communion, an international movement dedicated to the eradication of poverty through the pooling and redistribution of business profits to support those in need.
Thinking the pope was going to give us some praise for the work that we do, his words came as a reassurance but also a strong challenge to go beyond what is expected: “An entrepreneur who is only a Good Samaritan,” he said, “does half of his duty; he takes care of today’s victims, but does not curtail those of tomorrow.” It was a reminder to us of how easy it is to be satisfied with just maintaining the status quo.
And then the real challenge came in one brief sentence: “In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.” These words found a place deep inside of me, especially as I returned to the United States after having spent 10 days with people from all over the world who do not have the things we Americans have in our lives, but who have, nonetheless, found happiness and meaning in simplicity, because of and not in spite of their lack of material possessions.
This pope has reminded us in his recent environmental encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” just how connected our lives are with those people and living things around the world in an integral ecology.
What we do and how we live impacts others, for good or for bad, even if we cannot see it in our day-to-day choices. At the beginning of this Lent, in this year, at this time, an examination of conscience leaves me bare.
“What will I give up for Lent?” I recall a quote from the inspiring American saint Elizabeth Ann Seton: “Live simply, that others may simply live.” With the pope’s reminder, I know the answer. It won’t be so much “giving up” as “giving.” Everything.
Lord, please help me to strip away everything that keeps me from offering my “all” to you that I find in the person you place before me in each moment this Lent. You, Lord, are our only good.
(John Mundell is a member St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis and a member of the ArchIndy Creation Care Commission).