Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga at Emmanuel Cathedral in Durban delivering his homily on the need for climate justice. Credit: Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

By Patrick Nicholson

Caritas Internationalis President Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga says failure at climate talks in Durban is a “moral apartheid” that cannot be allowed to happen.

Just as South Africa’s Apartheid era policies sought divisions along race lines, says Cardinal Rodriguez, today the world’s environment and energy policies divide man from nature.

He said talks under the UNFCCC that finish 9 December must end with a step forward rather than a step backwards.

This means a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement that builds on the Kyoto Protocol. Decisions are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 percent by 2020 by developed counties.

During a special Mass at Emmanuel Cathderal in Durban, Cardinal Rodriguez delivered a homily asking how long will countless people have to go on dying before adequate decisions are taken.

“Powerful nations of the world, we are expecting from you the courageous decisions the world needs to live in peace and solidarity,” he said.

Read the full homily below

“Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight ” (Mark 1:1-8)

The liturgy of this Second Sunday of Advent seems to have been designed for this COP17 we are attending. The first Reading already called on us to “Console my people, console them”. Barely a week ago, torrential downpours caused a great deal of suffering and death in Durban. Don’t we realise that the climate is out of control? How long will countless people have to go on dying before adequate decisions are taken?

It’s true that in faith we wait “for the new heavens and the new earth” as the second Reading told us, but this does not mean indifference or complicity with those who destroy this land where we live. “Living holy and saintly lives” means living in justice with creation and the environment, and especially with the poor people who are the primary victims of this serious problem.

In the desert John “cried out” the need to prepare a way for the Lord. Today, in the desert of our planet Earth, and in the desert of our hearts, the same voice is ringing out. This conference of delegates from so many countries cannot remain as a voice silenced by economic power.

It’s a voice that cries out and calls on us to: “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” At least for the moment, we should set aside our lists of pending tasks to listen to this voice that is clamouring within us: “Console my people, console them.” Powerful nations of the world, we are expecting from you the courageous decisions the world needs to live in peace and solidarity.

We need to listen to this voice crying out to all of us: “Prepare a way for the Lord.” This means getting rid of the obstacles that hinder God’s arrival in our lives, so that we may keep the gates of our hearts open to His presence. Most important is to open up new paths to God, who always comes to us.

Currently, many men and women don’t know which path to follow in order to meet Him. For many, life has turned into a convoluted maze. Others live in the froth of outward show, focusing on their image, appearance, social success and the quest for power.

As John told us: the Lord is coming, and we need to prepare a way for Him. It’s very easy to carry on living without paths to God. We don’t have to consciously reject God. All we need to do is follow the current general trend and ensconce ourselves in superficiality.

Little by little God disappears from the horizon of our lives, and interests us less and less. Today, can we prepare a way to God, who comes towards us?

We’re filling up our lives with things, but remain empty inside. We’re informed about everything, but we have no idea where to direct our lives. Today, how can we prepare a way to the Lord, who comes to us? When we focus our lives on outward things, distracted by the countless forms of escape and enjoyment our society offers us, can we really confront ourselves and mull over the meaning of our lives? Are we capable of questioning ourselves about the senseless development that is destroying the environment?

“Prepare a way for the Lord.” John’s cry hasn’t lost its relevance. Whether we are aware of it or not, God is coming to us, but first of all we need to encounter ourselves deeply before being able to open ourselves up to Him.

“John wore a garment of camel skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.” John seems to be man who isn’t integrated within society and far removed from social conventions. This is borne out by the place where he is (the desert) and how he feeds and clothes himself.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of John’s food and clothing so that we may eliminate all the superfluous things our excessive consumer society offers us and encounter the only necessity, which suffices for us for life.

Then John, referring to Jesus, says some beautiful words: “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I… I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” John wants to say that his baptism is only with water, namely a symbol of rebirth, a new start, which leaves behind fatalism and injustice.

It isn’t possible to be pessimistic and say that COP17 will end in failure.

“He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit,” meaning that Jesus comes to baptise us with the force of life and the Love of God. Jesus will not immerse humanity in the waters of the river Jordan, but rather in the depths of God’s Love, which is symbolised by the Holy Spirit.

No one can quash the force of the Holy Spirit. This is Jesus, God’s Messiah, who comes to save all peoples. Blessed are we if we open ourselves to His presence.

In these times of crisis we’re living through, today’s Gospel reminds us in a special way of the need to be supported and guided by the Holy Spirit. We should be more like Jesus, and let ourselves be imbued by His Spirit of Love; this Spirit is Fire.

At this dark and desolate time for our culture, God Himself is preparing the way in our hearts to enter into our homes. He is the key that opens what no one may lock, the shepherd who watches over our lives, the hand that cures our wounds, the love that is always awake and dispels our fears and makes us glimpse the clarity of hope.

Today, we only have to open our hearts to Him and say to Him: Lord, transform our lives and lead us along the path of Peace and Love. May we learn from John to zero in on the only essential element of our lives. May this conference be a success for global solidarity, and embody a desire to make a better world for future generations.