Thursday, September 27, 2012

News for the Poor

[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:16b-21)

With the publication this week of the 2nd edition of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor and concern about food prices rising because of the effects of extreme weather on food production, today’s Gospel lesson gives us a lens for hearing this news about the negative effects of climate change that are affecting the poorest people in the world first and worst.

After reading Isaiah’s words about bringing good news to the poor, Jesus says the scripture has been fulfilled in his speaking the words of the prophet. The prophetic message that God’s promise is to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives and oppressed people, and healing of all kinds is fulfilled in the life of Christ.

The news in the Climate Vulnerability Monitor is not good news for the poor. It’s not good news for anyone, but especially not for people who don’t have much in the first place. In the summary of the study’s findings  is the statement “Climate injustice is extreme”. Another of the findings sheds light on what this injustice means in terms of human life: failure to act to stop climate change could cause more than 100 million deaths between now and 2030. More than 100 million deaths in the next eighteen years!

Oxfam International has prepared a report called Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices: The costs of feeding a warming world . The report talks about the effects of extreme weather caused by global warming on food production and food prices. Here in the United States, we are seeing the effects of this year’s drought on food prices. This report models the impacts of extreme weather events on the prices of key international staple crops in the year 2030. The report summary states that “our failure to slash greenhouse gas emissions presents a future of greater food price volatility, with severe consequences for the precarious lives and livelihoods of people living in poverty.” More bad news for the poor!

If Christ brought good news to the poor and if the Church is the Body of Christ, the Church is called to advocate for significant action to mitigate climate change beginning now. If we remain silent and complacent while millions of people die from the effects of climate change, we can no longer claim to have any good news to share.

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