Repairing the Covenant We’ve Broken
produced by the Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries for the fifth Sunday of Lent
Today’s readings remind us of the true purpose of Lent: to prepare to meet our Risen Lord by repenting for those times when we did not behave as well as we should have. If we’re honest, we fail, and we fail often. But we cannot despair when we do. We must ask God to “create a clean heart in me” (Psalm 51: 12) because God has promised that God “will forgive [our] evildoing and remember [our] sin no more” (Jeremiah 31: 34).
We are comforted because we know that God’s mercy is greater than our wrongdoing. But usually, after we have felt bad about something wrong we did and confessed it with an open and contrite heart, we end up sinning again. How does this keep happening, we wonder. Weren’t we truly sorry the last time?
We can discern part of the reason for our problem if we pay close attention to God’s words in the first reading: “for they broke my covenant” (Jeremiah 31: 32). Recall the readings of February 18th, about God establishing the covenant between God, humans, and animals. In our reflection from that day, we said that a covenant is a promise God makes, and a binding together of those within the covenant. The relationship between God, humans, and creation grew deeper because of that covenant. This week, God is saying that we fall into sin when we break our end of the deal. In other words, we sin when we forget that we are in relationship with others: with God, with our fellow humans, and with the rest of creation.
Pope Francis teaches us that “disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbor, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with the other, with God, and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tell us that life itself is endangered.”
A disregard for the relationships that bind us together is sin, and this sin seeps into all areas of human endeavor, including extractive industries. “Lucrative and politically important extractive projects can become entangled with abuses by unaccountable security forces; undermine the livelihoods of families forced to relocate to make way for them; and fuel government corruption.”
One way extractive industries contribute to corruption is by mining “conflict resources.” These are resources extracted in a conflict zone, and then sold to the international market.
Coltan was such a resource during the Ituri conflict from 1999 to 2003 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armies, rebel groups, and outside actors mined coltan to finance their war. By 2006, the war killed nearly 60,000 people. Thousands more were forced from their homes. Coltan is used to make tantalum, a component of cellphones, computers, and other electronics.
The allure of power, money, or consumer goods seduces us into ignoring how our actions might impact our sisters and brothers. A rebel’s quest for power, a mining company’s pursuit of money, my desire for a phone, directly and indirectly allows for the harming and displacement of vulnerable communities. If we take a moment to remember the ties that bind us together, perhaps we can become less susceptible to breaking the covenant God makes with us all.
All of the sins we commit in some way weaken one or more of our relationships. Take a moment to think about how your thoughts, your words, what you have done and what you have not done have hurt the relationships in your life – your relationship with yourself, with God, with your sisters and brothers, and with all creation.
Each Monday during Lent, the Columban Center will feature the weekly reflections written by the Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries for their 2018 Lenten Creation Care Calendar. This calendar is an invitation to use the season of Lent to grow closer to creation and to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable communities impacted by extractive industries.
The Inter-religious Working Group on Extractive Industries is a Washington, DC based coalition of faith, human rights, and environmental organizations concerned about the negative impacts of extractive industries on creation, which includes both the human and natural world. Columban communities around the world, from the Philippines to Myanmar in Asia to Chile and Peru in the Americas, are impacted by the damaging consequences of extractive industries.