Forty more days and Nineveh shall be destroyed.
A recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underscored the grave and existential threat posed by climate change and emphasized that the actions we take in this decade will be key to the future viability of life on Earth. We must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels to preserve a livable planet for current and future generations; each day that we fail to change course puts the possibility of a thriving future further out of reach.
Forty days for Nineveh, ten years for planet Earth.
I don’t believe that God wills the climate crisis as punishment for human wrongdoing, but neither does it seem that God intervenes to spare us the consequences of our choices. To do so would be to negate our free will. In the case of the climate crisis, the choices of a few—namely, fossil fuel companies who for decades have knowingly covered up the grave threat posed by emissions and, to a lesser extent, those of us whose consumer lifestyles have maintained demand for fossil fuels—have outsized consequences for the many. The poorest of the poor have been impacted first, but none of us will be altogether spared.
Today’s readings, however, are about second chances. We are not beyond redemption; all hope is not lost. Where the first reading picks up, Jonah himself has just been given a second chance after initially fleeing the call to deliver God’s warning to the Ninevites. Upon hearing Jonah’s admonishment, all of Nineveh hastens to repent, and they are spared destruction. Today we are replete with warnings, and our forty days are not yet up.
In the Psalm, we pray, “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” The word “humbled” derives from “humus,” the organic matter in soil. To be humbled is to be of the earth. Today, may we remember that we are of the earth, and that to live otherwise is to hasten our own destruction. Where we are called to repent of our pillaging of the earth, may we make like the Ninevites and “turn from [our] evil way and from the violence [we have] in hand.” Where we are called to join our voices to the Jonahs of today, may our prophetic cries reverberate within the halls of power.
To the God of second chances, we pray: have mercy on us.
- How are you being called to humility—to remember that we are of the earth?
- Where can you join your voice to the Jonahs of today, to challenge the injustice that intensifies the climate crisis?
Anna Robertson is director of youth and young adult mobilization for Catholic Climate Covenant. She is a writer, musician, yoga aficionado, and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for supporting the emergence of the widespread ecological conversion of hearts called for by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. Prior to her current role, Anna has planned retreats in college campus ministry, supported families of women experiencing incarceration, studied collective memory in El Salvador, and accompanied college students on international immersion experiences in Latin America. She has her master of theological studies degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.