2020 has been an especially difficult year. Pandemic. Devastating typhoons. Deep recession. Death and destruction from widespread flooding, and especially that they happened in our major food producing areas.
Government has to do a difficult balancing act of controlling the spread of a virus by imposing mobility restrictions, and yet also struggling to keep the economy alive, which requires that people not be restricted so that they could be “out there” producing and exchanging goods and services.
The year had created unfamiliar ways for living our daily lives. And many are suffering.
Our world is largely what we make it to be. Whether it is our world of family, or our larger world of community, country, and the planet. They get shaped or warped by what we do and how we act and behave.
“Family” comes from the Latin “famulus” translated in Old English as “household”. It means “persons regularly living under one roof with or without blood relations”). Its earlier Greek word is “οικογένεια” (oikogéneia) which comes from the root word oikos. An oikos alludes to three distinct but linked concepts of family, the family’s properties, and the family’s common place of domicile (or house).
And so, where there are people with properties living together in a place, we have an oikos. It could be as small as a household or family, but as well bigger: community, country, and the world.
An “oikos of greed” is marked by “wanting-to-get-ahead” and by constant wrangling for advantage. In families, this “oikos of greed” is revealed by failures of fidelity, of furtherance of mutual good, and of filial love. In communities, countries, and across our planet, it is revealed by feuds and wars, nastiness, and by crimes against people, properties, and Nature. It is mirrored by a climate crisis resulting from long years of irresponsible and exploitative violations of nature’s limits.
Violations of nature’s limits include spewing greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere more than how much our planet could safely sequester them. Cutting down trees and harvesting fisheries more than their ability to naturally replenish their stocks.
Excessive consumption that burdens our ability to sufficiently produce and provide for all, to maintain ecological balance and wildlife refuge, to secure our health, and to properly dispose of our garbage and wastes. And they include our widespread failure to rationally use our lands, seas, and air so as not to degrade their quality and their ability to sustainably provide for our needs.
An “oikos of greed” breeds hate; corruption; intense, frequent, and extensive natural disasters. It breeds pandemics and wicked problems of all kinds that endanger human lives, properties, dignity, well-being, and food systems. It breeds vulnerability of our energy supplies. An “oikos of greed” is an ugly mosaic of social, economic, and ecological dangers.
This Advent, I pray that the dark “oikos of greed” now seemingly shrouding our homes and world, be lifted and overwhelmed by a bright “oikos of God” that comes as a mosaic of good, right, and beautiful.
This Christmas, I pray that we have what Fr. Pedro Warpole, S.J. calls an “eco-spiritual experience” of seeing “God with us” (the Immanuel) in all Creation around us – in our families, community, country, and planet – so that we may be more reverent in caring for them.
May we see this Christmas a brightening dawn of an “oikos of God” in our time. – NWI