I am feeling pretty numb right now. It is a survival mechanism, I know. The world is on fire, and in an attempt to pretend that everything is normal, my emotions are shutting down. Especially with regard to climate change, this seems to be the general feeling. Humans are not built to comprehend a problem as big as this and so, by and large, we live our daily lives trying to ignore it. However, author Mary Pipher reminds us, “We can deal with our cultural and environmental crises only after we deal with our human crises of trauma, denial, and emotional paralysis. This will require that most difficult of all human endeavors, facing our own despair.”
Today’s gospel reading centers around the call to love your enemies…
I don’t know about you, but at this point in my life, I don’t have a concrete list of enemies. I do, however, constantly struggle with what St. Ignatius calls “the enemy of our human nature.” While it is tempting to think of a literal devil when we hear this phrase, an image that better resonates with me is that little voice in the back of my head that makes critical comments or tempts me to despair.
“You don’t have the skills to do that.”
“Nobody cares about climate change so why do anything.”
“Stay in bed.”
In the poem The Guest House, Rumi encourages us to respond to our strong emotions in the following way: “Welcome and entertain them all!/ Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows.” The gospel phrase love your enemies challenges us to find ways to respond with love to the thoughts and emotions that threaten to paralyze us in order to continue our journey towards radical hope.
What emotions might you “welcome and entertain” this Lent that will free you to take loving action on climate change? How are you being invited into “facing your own despair” this Lent?
Brenna Davis is director of Education for Justice and environmental initiatives for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She graduated from Boston College in 2010 and served in Cleveland as a Jesuit Volunteer. She previously taught theology, coached cross country, and served as main office coordinator at Saint Martin de Porres, Cleveland’s Cristo Rey High School. During her time there she was the self-proclaimed assistant to the director of facilities in all sustainability initiatives on campus. She is a certified spiritual director and a Cuyahoga County Master Recycler.