"People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads for your redemption is at hand."

If we don't die of fright because of the proliferation of more and more deadly weapons, the federal government's verdict on climate change might kill us instead. The newly-released National Climate Assessment , endorsed by NASA, NOAA and 10 other government agencies, states that, if left unchecked, climate change "could eventually cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and kill thousands of Americans to boot," completely undermining our lifestyle and leading to the extinction of countless plant and animal species. ( Moreover, this document, like Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', points to human activity, especially the emission of greenhouse gasses, as the primary cause of climate change. Yes, there is much to be terrified of here -- if not for ourselves, then for our children and their children and generations yet to come, not just in the U.S. but all over the world.

If we have been unfortunate enough to experience natural disasters or if we have been shocked by media footage of the devastation that has ravaged America and other countries in recent years, then we have good reason to be afraid. Moreover, if we are overwhelmed by the numbers of migrants and displaced peoples amassing along our borders and along the borders of other countries, then we have seen nothing yet. This situation is only going to get worse-- compounded by water shortages, food shortages, insufficient housing and the spread of disease. At first it will be the poor who bear the brunt of this, but soon no one will be immune. Without change, global catastrophe is an inevitability.

Advent is the perfect time to reflect on the conversion each of us needs to embrace so that we become part of the solution rather than part of the problem."Going green" is not a political action but a spiritual action. It is an act of gratitude to our Creator, demonstrating love of God, self and others; it demands generosity, selflessness, discipline and a profound care for all living beings. It calls on us to let go of some of our bad habits and creature comforts and to find ways of being good stewards of creation. It challenges us to hope in spite of all the Doomsday predictions and to trust that the God who has called life out of chaos will listen to our prayers and help us in our efforts to save the world -- literally!

Early on his encyclical, Pope Francis writes, "Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise" (#12). Now is the time for both contemplation and action; it is our moral obligation to repair the world so that God's glory may continue to shine through every strand of the web of life.

  1. What are some simple ways in which your Christmas observance could be more "green"?
  2. What new year's resolutions might you consider to live more sustainably?
  3. What are the spiritual implications that you associate with climate change?
  4. Do you have the "will" to save the planet or are you content to merely be a spectator at a horror movie?