Yeb Sano was a talented young Catholic Filipino diplomat – a Commissioner of the Philippines’ Climate Change Commission – when a disaster in his home region of the Philippines prompted a career change. He had been attending a UN climate conference in Poland in 2013 when the news came that a super-typhoon called Haiyan had devastated the city of Tacloban and surrounds. He wept and fasted for two weeks, as he heard news from family and friends in the area, before deciding that his life needed a change of direction.
The following year, he gave up his career as a diplomat. “I will be working with different faith groups across the world, as part of the larger global climate movement,” he said. He had seen communities suffering because of severe weather, and yet the actions and commitments of political and industry leaders internationally were failing to secure a safe and just future for all by acting seriously on climate change.
In 2015 he was part of a People’s Pilgrimage, which culminated in a 60-day walk from Rome to Paris to arrive in time for the landmark UN Climate Change Summit, which saw the first serious international agreement to tackle climate change. A Columban delegation met him there. He had a clear mission which was to work with people of faith on the climate crisis, which he felt hurt poor communities the most and which he saw as a moral issue.
In the gospel of the first Sunday in March, we see a Spirit-filled Jesus standing at the crossroads of his life. He enters the Judaean wilderness. At that time this would have hosted lions, leopards, bears, jackals, foxes and antelope – this was before humans had driven most of these creatures into extinction in the Near East. It was here in the wilderness, away from human society, that Jesus accepted the messianic ministry. Jesus regularly returned to wild areas to pray and commune with God, especially before making important decisions.
Lent is a time of repentance and new beginnings for us. Jesus’ experience teaches us that there is nothing wrong with being tempted. It’s how we react to the temptation that matters. Temptations teach us that about ourselves. Temptation is less about a choice and more about our identity and direction in life. Think about the decisions before you at the moment. What are they? What is it you are really seeking? What brings you peace?
This Lent, let us look at the signs of our times, particularly the damage being done to poor communities and to the community of living things on Earth by destructive human behaviour. Christian churches have been waking up to the moral imperative to address justice, peace and care for creation. St Columban, patron of the Columban missionaries, once said, “If you wish to know the creator, learn about Creation.”
Let us get involved in any local initiatives, working for the common good of humanity and of the whole Earth community. A transition to a more sustainable life will mean opting for a new way of living based on simplicity and sufficiency rather than endless consumption and the greed-driven accumulation of material possessions. Let us reject temptations of greed, selfishness and indifference towards our neighbours.
God expects from us a maturity to accept responsibility for the future of communities nationally and globally. Indeed, we need to look out for the well-being of future generations. Consider undertaking some of the campaigning ideas suggested.