Mercy Mondays

What Price Will We Pay?

By Joanna Arellano | Monday, April 25, 2016

This past Friday on April 22, we celebrated Earth Day. It’s easy to imagine tree huggers throughout the globe, planting community gardens, promoting all that is eco-friendly for the earth. One could view this day as a joyous celebration of caring for our creation and participating in fun activities that illustrate just that.

What might be hard to imagine are the systems that actually cause the degradation of our earth and humanity and even harder to imagine why we’ve become tremendously disconnected in the first place. The disconnection from ourselves, our communities and our earth reflects a much deeper problem. In us, our networks and creation – we find God, we commune with God, enter into a mystical mutuality of love. Without this connection, an abyss of love remains. 

What does such an abyss look like?

I’m reminded of a tragic event that took place exactly three years ago yesterday on April 24, 2013. Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh in the Dhaka District were forced to go to work in their factory, Rana Plaza, despite enormous cracks throughout the building. A few hours later, around 8:45 a.m., the eight-story commercial building collapsed. The collapse killed more than 1,130 people, and injured thousands more.

Several of the companies that we shop from like Walmart, The Children’s Place, Mango, J.C Penney, Benetton and several others, produce their clothing at Rana Plaza. These corporations reap the benefits of Free Trade Agreements that allow them to outsource their supply chain because there are no environmental standards, fair labor laws, or other restrictions. Their only goal is to maximize their profit. I think about the ways we, as Catholics, are complicit in this deepening abyss with the ways we shop. 

There isn’t a single waking moment we aren’t overwhelmed with advertising to buy the newest products. We are currently consuming at a rate that is unsustainable and has damaging consequences for our society and our planet. Pope Francis reminds us that every purchase is also a moral act. When making choices, we must consider all points in the supply chain, from the way products are being grown and manufactured, to the way laborers are being treated in the workplace, to the way products are transported and marketed. The way we love must change, so that we can both listen and respond to the "cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

By reflecting on the Gospel reading for yesterday, we can honestly ask, “How do I love myself, God and neighbor?” We don’t need to romanticize  Christ’s new commandment as only being gentle and kind with one another, but instead internalize the great responsibility that is love and understand it translates to every single facet of our lives – in the way we make decisions, build relationships, purchase our everyday necessities, and so on.   

Moving beyond the excitement of Earth Day, we can pray for an awakening in ourselves that moves us into action to build the Kingdom for ourselves, our communities, the animals, and our planet united in God’s sacred love for Creation.

Mercy Challenge

Look in your closet and pick one item of clothing. Intentionally look for the label that says where your clothes were made and take 10 minutes to pray for the worker who made that piece of clothing. Pray that God will also wake you out of indifference the next time you go shopping for clothes and that you will consider supporting ethical clothing stores, the Goodwill, or other resale shops that do not directly benefit corporations that hurt our brothers and sisters here and abroad.

Joanna Arellano is the Associate Director for the Office for Peace and Justice.