Day 37: A Problem too Big, A God too Small?
BY BR. MARK MACKEY, S.J. | April 7, 2022
My image of God is too small.
Or, I could say, my image of God is never big enough. This can have frustrating consequences.
Between teaching environmental science classes at Loyola Chicago, working with our Jesuit Green Team, collaborating on various Church environmental efforts, and trying to keep up with the latest writing and research regarding the state of our planet, I spend a lot of my time thinking about what we call our current ecological crisis. On a daily basis I can get pulled back to a familiar feeling of frustration and existential dread that first began to form almost 18 years ago as I started my higher education in environmental science.
Sometimes I catch myself in prayer thinking “How can you ask for trust and peace—do you know the state of the planet? Have you seen the latest science in the IPCC report? Do you know the state of biodiversity loss in the world?” Like those in today’s Gospel, I can find myself addressing Jesus simply as some man in first century Palestine. Unlike the prostrating Abraham in the first reading or a person in the first two steps of AA, I can lack the humility it takes to see God as God is.
On occasion and with grace, I remember to let my certainties and questions go. I find myself fixed by the loving gaze of Christ. My endless questions and uncertainties drop away, and I find Jesus, the one who was before anything was. Whoa.
In humility I realize it was God who inspired my desire for environmental justice in the first place. In humility I remember God is the source of Creation and Being itself.
Can I trust God’s promises and covenant? Can I have hope in He who was, is, and will be?
Br. Mark Mackey, S.J., is a Jesuit brother in the Jesuits’ Midwest province. Mark is a lecturer in Loyola University Chicago’s School of Environmental Sustainability where he teaches environmental science, eco-spirituality, and herpetology.
Just the title of what Fr. Mackey does makes me weary but like him I do believe in the covenant I have with God and try to fulfill it each day. I can’t do more than honor God’s covenant. He has been good to me in giving me certain gifts and graces that I can use in service to others. We are thirsty for God’s love, and He continues to love us in the midst of all the specificity of our lives. Like Fr. Mackey we want the planet to survive and bring the goodness he offers as we abide by the nourishing of our planet. My grandchildren have a sense of beauty and glory about what they discover about our planet and nourish it by using the materials available carefully with the needs of others in mind. As we renew our covenant today let us remember the joy in offering others on this planet the goodness, joy and beauty we see around us..
I think you, and all of us can trust in God as a source of love, forgiveness, and creator of awe inspiring beauty. But trust in God to help the people of the world survive the greed and exploitation of the Uber wealthy? No, that is misplaced trust. The reality is God gave us knowledge and scientists, and the oil executives and the oil machine seemingly have a grip on information and power so tight that it matters not how nice, or spiritual, or activist we are. The spirituality and eco conversion is not making it into the hearts of all.
Most people in my parish of very loving, very spiritual people don’t even want to come forward to talk about transforming our system for environmental justice. So here we are stuck in a system of death. We lay people are supposed to just wait for life after death I suppose?
Is that what this is supposed to mean? I just hold on, live the meager life now with injustices and injuries growing by the day all around the world, but that’s okay because we go to mass, take Eucharist and pray?
I have Complete dissatisfaction in my heart about this. Where are the billion climate activists we need? Why can’t God’s people protect creation? Have we been lulled to sleep?
I sadly agree with you. I think it’s interesting that all other comments are simply proving your point. I understand that it may be easier to deny reality (the recent UN report ) and be comforted by faith. But this crisis requires large scale action and more than passivity. The minority who are awake to it cant do it alone. It isnt time for comforting words. God’s planet needs immediate action. Thank you at least for making me feel like i am not alone with my perception
That was terrific. Thanks.
Thank you. I needed to hear this today.
When we take the time to just be. We can see that of God’s handiwork all around us in nature. God is helping to protect us from irreversible harm. Yet the majority continue to live in fear, gloom and doom, listening to the media, instead of the quiet small voice of God, calling us outside into nature to observe His Handiwork.
Loved Bro Mark’s reflection and often find myself (while praying certain psalms) beating against God’s chest while God holds me in his arms. “An incarnate faith lives between intimacy and awe.”
TY for sharing! ❤️Suzanne SND
Thanks. The Reverend Mark Mackey has put before us sumptuous food for reflection. ‘God’s ways are more than Man’s arithmetic’ – says Mahatma Gandhi
This was something I needed to read this week. I work in the field of special education, as an attorney and advocate trying to secure educational services for children with disabilities. Having been called to this work by the Lord, as Brother Mackey was called to his work, I too can sometimes make God “too small” and forget that this is not work I can accomplish alone – the One who called me has far greater power and I have to trust in that power, and have patience. On another note – I’d love to know more about ecosprirituality! My daughter is a passionate environmentalist and is thinking of doing a project in our parish to share the church’s teachings on the importance of caring for our precious Earth – would welcome suggestions of resources she could tap other than “Laudato Si” 🙂