Lent Blog – 8: ECOLOGY & THE SIGN OF JONAH

Published Thu, 25/02/2021 by

Prophets are sent in every generation.  Their role is to read the signs of the times.  To interpret these to the people.  To point out matters of great importance which we neglect at our peril.  They are not against us they are for us.  But we can misunderstand them, for in our own best interests they urgently call out and cry for a change of heart and behaviour – or, in the language of the Bible, repentance. 

The First Reading at Mass yesterday recounted Jonah’s preaching to the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3.1-10). The prophet warns them that if they do not repent, their city will be destroyed.  The people respond with a will: they fast and put on sackcloth.  Even the king takes off his splendid robes, clothes himself in sackcloth and sits down in ashes.  He orders a general proclamation to be made, that all his subjects and their animals should fast; that the people should pray and renounce all their wickedness.  The passage concludes: “God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour.  And God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.”

How does God threaten us with disaster? God has created a Universe governed by laws of causality.  To understand them is to see that if x is done then y will inevitably follow. If certain laws are broken, undesirable consequences will ensue.  That is the ecological crisis confronting the world in a nutshell.  

In these times God is sending prophets to us in droves and in many guises:  scientists; media gurus, like David Attenborough; teenage activists, like Greta Thunberg.  And right in there among them, our Holy Father Pope Francis.  They are speaking with one voice: if we do not change our ways, our world will be destroyed.  Behind their united voices God is pleading with us to repent.  It is not as if he wants to destroy us. But he is warning us we will destroy ourselves if we don’t heed the message. It’s up to us.

So, with regard to ecology: what are you doing to change your ways?

MICHAEL KIRKHAM