Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Ecological conversion: What’s in a name?

Written by  Mike LeBlanc

Names are important. They carry so much meaning in one word. In my job I often have to recall many different people’s names and I (almost) always get a smile if I remember them right. There is something about being called by your name. A name can be an emboldening experience, a recognition of identity and status - like expressing friendship, solidarity, communion.

Growing up, I was always called Mike. It’s a good name, short, to the point, doesn’t waste syllables. It was after all, what my 2 year old Nephew first started calling me (“Nike”). Somewhere along the way, right around the time I first started working, I started referring to myself as “Michael”. It was longer, sounded more official, and I felt like it distinguished me. Well, years later I am trying to change back to Mike and you would not believe how hard it is. “Michael” keeps slipping out of me, in emails, introductions, and over the phone. Progress has been gradual, but slow (my nephew however has had no such difficulty and has never stopped calling me “Mike”).

When I hear about the two important characters in the New Testament Church, Simon Peter and the apostle Paul, I wonder if they had similar experiences. It must have been quite the contrast; before they met Jesus, they would have been only a “Simon” or a “Saul” to their closest friends, family, and in Simon Peter’s case, spouse. But after they met Jesus, there was a change. This change represented a call to conversion, and they could no longer go by their previous moniker; they were a new creation in Christ. The friends, family and communities that embraced that change would have called them by their new name. The ones that didn’t, well, Paul and Peter may have known how that interaction was going to go from the very first words of a greeting (“Saul”... “Simon”).

Every aspect of a Christian is a call by Christ, and if you follow the Book of Revelation, a call by name. We are always learning more about the totality of that call, both as individuals and as a Church. It may not be as dramatic as being called to leave our fishing nets (twice) or being thrown from a horse but there seems to always be a significant moment when a new reality opens for us. It might be realizing that the personal call to holiness is Christ’s call directed at I, me, myself and not simply a generic call out to a congregation during Sunday mass. Or it might be the moment when it first dawned that Christ called the Church to be a witness to the world, in the world, and words such as solidarity and social justice came into focus. No longer could we be bystandards or mere observers, but were called to action by Popes such as Leo XIII, John the XXIII, and John Paul II.

In the 21st century, another Pope is making another call, and this is a call to Ecological conversion. It also happens to be another Share Lent, which is why I am here. I am your parish rep for Development and Peace, and currently coordinating my 2nd ever Share Lent (D+P’s annual campaign aimed at drawing awareness and support). While this year’s theme, for our common home, places the Amazon rainforest and the plight of her people at the forefront, these themes are very relevant for all of us. We are called to recognize that ecological fallout from economic activities such as land misuse and toxic spills disproportionately affects the poor. We are called to stand up for the marginalized and powerless and prevent their exploitation, showing solidarity with Christ -- “What you did to the least so you did unto me…” And finally, we might have our own lightbulb moment -- this common home is my home, these “distant” people are my brothers and sisters, this Ecological conversion is my calling. I don’t know what this exact call is for you, I’ll be honest. It could be

  • Dollars and cents saved and given to charity
  • Adding your name to the Letter of Solidarity and getting your friends to do likewise
  • Starting a good conversation about these issues on social media
  • Changing your buying habits, instead buying less, second hand, fairly traded, and ethically sourced products
  • Saving earth’s resources such as energy, gas, water 
  • Hours and minutes spent volunteering in your community
  • Prayerfully reflecting on any one of the more than a dozen papal encyclicals written to guide the Church on these topics in the last 100 years
  • Inviting your friends, children, spouses, parishioners, neighbours to the joy of living in Christ doing any or all of the above

I’ll be praying for you and I’ll expect the same from you!

Read 615 times Last modified on Thursday, March 12, 2020