by Jason Wilde
I've always had an awe for the many revelations when God shows himself at just the right time in order to make his point. It is in these miracles that Jesus frequently gets to play the part of an illusionist after his resurrection, staying hidden from perception until just the right time, when one of his disciples have said what they needed to say and then 'POP', "Hey, it's me!"
My favorite is Saint Paul's story of revelation and conversion. Who else but the Holy Spirit would lead Christianity's number one nemesis out into the desert, not to be left for dead, but to blind him by the full-on light of God with the sole intent of building him into to Christianity's bulldog evangelist? Maybe the reason I have fallen in love with Paul's revelation is because in my own life, I have been shown the light in such a way that it completely turned me around, pointed me in the right direction, and then gave me a kick in the rear for good measure. Of course, it didn't all happen overnight, but I can point to a few times in my life where I was changed, or even had a revelation, you might say.
June 2015 was one of those times. I thought we had it all figured out - a good salary, a manageable house, small enough that we could have an exciting travel life with our 3 kids, and a weekly Sunday routine that included an hour of God.
In that month, Pope Francis caused a stir in both the secular and religious world with his encyclical Laudato si' (On Care for Our Common Home). I was on the side of many Catholic conservatives when I scoffed at the media reports of an environmentalist Pope who believed in climate change. "Why in the world would he be talking about this?" I remember thinking to myself. "Must be just media spin", I rationalized to myself.
Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. (Laudato si 14)
It was such a strong conviction that it actually convinced me to download a copy of the heated encyclical (pun intended), with the sole purpose of confirming my beliefs.
Now, I wasn't exactly someone who would sit and read the Bible, much less a 184 page homily about the environment. And, like Paul, I didn't even make it past the first couple of chapters before I was hooked, blinded, knocked off of my pedestal, and, for the most part, proven wrong. I say 'for the most part' because the encyclical really didn't provide a lot of new information to me, but instead it linked together issues that I thought previously unrelated, and it opened my eyes to what God really cares about. I already had a minimalist mind, one that had downsized our family to living in a condo with a single car, recycled faithfully, and converted the bulbs in my house to lower energy versions. All these things were very environmentally friendly. But I only did them to serve a purpose - to save me money. I was incredibly selfish in this way, to the point of becoming fanatical about saving for the next trip, which I now think was akin to idolatry.
But, what Laudato si' taught me was that we shouldn't have selfless love for just ourselves, or for only the people whom we already loved.
Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society. (Laudato si’ 91)
What I learned from Laudato si' was that we should love all of humanity, and one of the ways we do this is by caring for the creation that God entrusted to us. We should be pro-life in the sense that all life is worth caring for, and countless lives are impacted by our environmental footprint. Pope Francis often refers to the 'throwaway culture', using it as a double meaning for a culture of resource waste and a culture which discards lives if they are not deemed worthy or valuable. This is an intentional joining of life and our environment. Caring for our common home is a part of this holistic fulfillment of Jesus's pro-life teachings that asks us to love one another. Focusing only on one aspect, or neglecting another, is akin to the misguided Pharisaic views about sinners, the lame, the weak, the dying, or Jesus himself.
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men. - Saint Francis of Assisi
We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature. (Laudato si 139)
As I found myself reading more of the church's teachings, and eventually cracking open a Bible myself, I found that like Jesus, Pope Francis's 'radical' views weren't really new or very different from any of his predecessors, or from the saints who lived exemplary Christian lives before him, or from Jesus Himself. If anything, the reason his views are considered so extreme by most Christians is because he is now explaining things in such a way that we are all listening.
(Bartholomew) asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion. (Laudato si 9)
And so, in the spirit of Laudato si' on this Earth Day, I challenge you to do something selfless. Instead of thinking only of yourself, or the neighbor you already love, or your personal idol (whatever that may be), try to do something that will have absolutely no benefit for yourself but will help life and our common home. Try to do something that will form a new bond between yourself and God's creation, to allow you to love without expecting something in return. Maybe that is picking up trash on a random street, making a pledge to recycle, spending the entire evening outside with the kids (remember to turn off the lights inside!), slowing down to treat other drivers with love, turning up the A/C a degree, finding a way to use those last few carrots in the bottom of your crisper instead of going out to eat, sitting on the porch and read the first few pages of Laudato si, or walking to the mailbox instead of driving. Any selfless act of modesty, or kindness for someone or something in God's creation would be a good start.
Praise Be To God!
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
(St. Francis Prayer)
by Jason and Jessica Wilde
Today, we learned from Chi Yu’s geneticist that he does indeed have Duane’s Radial Ray Syndrome, a flipping of one of his genetic indicators that typically causes limb differences, problems with eye muscles, pancreas and kidney issues, and in some cases, heart defects. While this official diagnosis wasn’t really a surprise to us since he has most of the symptoms, it was the doctor’s follow-up questions that caused us to step back.
To start with, his specific genetic variant is slightly different from the typical case. The doctor was particularly curious about this difference and said it may be due to the lack of cases from Asian backgrounds in the genetic database. She then asked if we would consent to his case being used as the subject for a medical paper. Naturally my response was “Sure, why not if this could help someone.”
While waiting on the doctor, I received this text from my eldest daughter, Grace.
While seemingly unrelated, I thought it was a good quote and wanted to post it on Facebook. But like a good investigator, I did my research and looked up the quote. It comes from Saint John Paul’s mass at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in 1979, where he spoke at length on the sanctity of human life and family.
“When Chi Yu decides to have kids, it will be a ‘flip of the coin’ chance of his child having this same condition”, I was told. The doctor casually explained all of his ‘options’. He could do selective in vitro fertilization. They could test the embryos for this before implanting them in his wife’s womb. Or, they could do amniocentesis to test for this condition after the baby is conceived…and then what? Lastly, almost as an offhand comment, he could do nothing about it and flip the coin.
We chose a child with a special need. His special need is just one small part of the amazing person Chi Yu is. It doesn’t make him less. It doesn’t make him unworthy of life. When his wife falls in love with him, I pray that she falls in love with everything about him, including his disability. It is a part of him as a human being.
And then I think back to the medical paper. Would it be used to help predict this condition and be a reason for a mother to abort her child? Or how could you choose which embryo gets to continue living based on an indicator for a physical disability? Why would this kind of discrimination be any different from racial, religious, gender, or poverty discrimination? These are all equivalently an attack on life.
The interjection of a random text from my daughter had a purpose. At first it seemed unrelated, but after researching the context and praying about it, her text was a gift of wisdom in that dark moment. God’s Word through a Saint’s intercession is timeless. The issues that Saint John Paul spoke against almost 40 years ago - racism, discrimination, attacks on the dignity of life, poverty, and acts of selfishness like exclusion and natural resource squandering are still prevalent today. And, as pro-life supporters, we can’t pick pieces - all are equally important.
Given these thoughts, we can’t in good faith allow Chi’s results to be used for this paper. What do you think?
(All quotes above from Saint John Paul’s mass at Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in 1979.)
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.