November 4th Book Club - Day 3 Air ... Waiting to Exhale...
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
Would it surprise you to know that approximately 3.5 billion years ago, there was no oxygen gas in the atmosphere and no life as we know it today? We are indebted to many ancient microorganisms (blue-green algae) for our existence because billions of years ago, they pumped oxygen into our oceans and atmosphere as they transformed sunshine into energy. Thanks to their efforts and others like them, the air in Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 78 percent nitrogen gas and 21 percent oxygen, but it also has small amounts of other gases, too, such as carbon dioxide, neon, and hydrogen.
Also, air is something that connects us despite the fact we cannot see air but we feel it! From the gentle caress of a summer's breeze to the howling gale-force winds of a hurricane -- air moves us. Every single breath you take has been associated with another living organism. At the level of atoms, we can say with confidence that the oxygen atoms we inhale once meandered (and powered) a leg of a dinosaur or was present in the lungs of Aristotle or even Jesus. The same is true for other atoms. “There may have been a carbon atom in last night’s cupcake that was once integral to the structure of Julius Caesar’s left toenail.” (Check out Alyssa Contreras's blog "Breathing Ancient Air"). So even if we want to deny the connectedness of our world, we cannot. All are related at a molecular level ... but the same story is told at an immensely big (galactic) and infinitesimally small (quantum) level.
And the way that our world is organized, it only has a limited number of atoms to go around. So, if we significantly change what is in the air by adding pollutants and toxic materials, it is cause for grave concern.
Chinese artist-activist Wang Renzheng Makes Bricks from Smog - Photo by People's Daily
But is air pollution just a physical concern?
Pope Francis does not think so and neither do I.
It is a sin.
"For human beings ... to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by striping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life -- these are sins." Pope Francis quoting Patriarch Bartholomew (LS, 8)
Pope Francis is clear that we are called as Christians to see the world as a place where we can encounter God and the world is a sacrament of communion. He does not mince words: "It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God's creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet." (LS, 9) This is incredible! This intimacy is one of the greatest gifts given by our Creator who truly desires a authentic relationship with what God has created. This is a major reason why I am a Catholic and study theology!
Reflect a moment on this gift -- when do you feel God's presence the most? COVID19 has asked us to sacrifice normal human relations for a very long time. Our arms ache to hug someone and families mourn the loss of celebrations of crucial milestones. But this distancing should never means we are disconnected, especially from the source of Life.
But is the Spirit calling to you and we are deaf to this voice? Take a moment to look at when you felt uplifted in the last 9 months? Were you outside? Were you listening to nature music on your phone? Was it a new found appreciation for fleeting moments of true connection?
If Earth is a communion of subjects (thank you Thomas Berry - check out my early blog celebrating Thomas Berry) where we can encounter the divine, then how differently should we be walking, loving and living in our world?
How should our church life change? Sacramental life?
Catechesis of our children?
How we do business?
Where do we turn for inspiration? Pope Francis is clear -- we must turn to the indwelling Holy Spirit that inspires new life from death.
The Spirit of God has filled the universe with possibilities and therefore, from the very heart of things, something new can always emerge. (LS, 80) ... The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present at the very heart of the universe, inspiring and bringing new pathways. (LS, 238)
God loves for passionately that this Love is the interior impulse that is moving all of creation towards wholeness in the Risen Christ.
Take a moment to do some holy noticing of this impulse that invigorates creation -- and ourselves as part of this grand universe.
Listen to “Spirit Move” by Kalley Heiligenthal (CLICK HERE) or Kim Walker-Smith’s “Holy Spirit” (CLICK HERE). Then find the lyrics of your favorite hymns and Christian worship music celebrating the Holy Spirit. Find a quite place and spend time reflecting on how to connect how we are praying about the Spirit with how you see the Spirit’s presence in the world.
After spending time with this time of prayer and celebration of the Spirit, move into the more fragile areas of your spiritual life -- where have you fallen in your care of God's glorious communion of subjects? When have you frustrated the creative impulse of the Spirit by neglecting creation - especially the air we all breathe and the climate we all rely on for life? Spend a moment in this space. Take time to recognize the darkness, fragility, anxiety, grief.
Then breath in deeply. Hold it for a moment. Then exhale ... now starts your new commitment to abundant life!
Religious Groups and Green Energy - Click here!
How do we find new paths to walk that will help us care for our avian neighbors and our skies? Remember we are communion of subject -- so we turn to each other. The eternal Spirit is always moving, animating, inspiring if we awaken to Her presence - Ruah ... God's breath moving over the waters bringing order from chaos...
Take time to watch Covenant (CLICK HERE), a short film about people from diverse religious traditions coming together to fight for clean air. Explore how these religious leaders put their faith into action and helped organize a grassroots movement that eventually helped ensure that the air we breathe remained clean. Where was the Spirit moving? Where is it now moving in you ... ?
Let us all awaken to our destructive ways that is inhibiting the work of the Holy Spirit - infinite creativity -- working to bring life and justice from death.