In this a brief quote from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’, Francis starts with an old psalm verse, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
Then he turns it around. He drops the reference to the Lord and changes the mood of the verb from indicative to imperative. So what started out as an acclamation of trust in God now becomes a challenge to us.
We know that God hears the cry of the poor. But do we? Or are we so deafened by the roar of global consumer capitalism that we are no longer able, or no longer willing, to hear the pain of those whose suffering our society is willing to write off as “the price of progress?”
Then Francis adds a new dimension to the old psalm line. He adds the phrase “of the earth.” It is not only our fellow human beings who are suffering under our greed. It affects the whole planet. In the untrammeled pursuit of profit we have despoiled the landscape, polluted the oceans, destroyed the habitat of countless species, and set in motion a process of climate change that will soon, if not checked in time, become irreversible. The very planet cries out in pain.
The problems of our global ecosystem of ecosystems were not created overnight, and they surely will not be solved overnight. Some answers are obvious: stop inflicting damage. As the old proverb says, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” But sometimes it is hard even to do the obvious. And fixing the damage that we have done to each other (think: massive and increasing income inequality) and to the earth (think: collapse of ecosystems and massive extinction of species) will not be easy even to imagine, much less to do. But before we can do, we must decide what to do. And before we can decide what to do, we must understand what the problems are, and what the root causes are. And to do that, we must hear the cry of the poor and of the earth. Dare we?
— Fr. Richard Lawrence