It isn't just the climate that's changing, ethics are too. Although we are still praying for the UN to make eco-cide a crime, there is a growing awareness of ecological sin. The Pope is considering writing a chapter in the Catechism on the subject and those preparing for confession are being encouraged to examine their consciences about the way in which their lifestyle choices affect the health of the planet. This is something that Christians of all denominations could incorporate into their spiritual practice this Lent.
An awareness of ecological sin is found not only in the Church but in the secular world too, frequently with a high degree of judgmentalism attached. Those who campaign for change and advocate for the planet are held to impossibly high standards in order to earn a hearing and are accused of being hypocrites if they so much as use a plastic bag. Holding others to a higher account than we hold ourselves is a disingenuous ways of silencing those who prick our consciences and make us uncomfortable. Whilst it is good to practice what we preach, our Gospel today makes it clear that no-one, apart from our Lord himself, is able to achieve a perfect life. Christians, above all people, know that failure to live up to our ideals does not render those ideals worthless.
Amongst those who have already made significant lifestyle changes in response to the climate emergency, judgmentalism is a constant temptation. If you haven't flown for thirty years its easy to condem frequent flyers, or if you have given up meat (even bacon) it's easy to demonise carnivores. It's natural to think, if I've made costly sacrifices why shouldn't you? However this doesn't take into consideration the realities of people's lives. If my daughter lived abroad would I find it so easy not to fly? Could I deny you your car if the nearest shop was an hour's walk away? Our entire way of life is predicated on carbon usage. Sometimes it isn't possible to do right for doing wrong. We all juggle competing 'goods'.
As with prayer, people should be encouraged to 'Green as they can, not as they can't'. Small actions can grow to big ones and dull consciences can be sharpened. Yet make no mistake about it - change we must.
Our Gospel today provides a template for this. No-one is without sin so no-one, except Jesus is in the position to judge. Yet neither is anyone let off the hook. Those in the crowd are forced to acknowledge their own short-comings whilst the woman at the centre of it all is gently, yet firmly, challenged to change. The call to repentance is still loud and clear and today we must heed it more than ever.
It is often said that our culture has no concept of sin making it difficult to preach the Gospel, but against the background of the climate crisis, the reality of sin comes into sharp focus, giving us the opportunity to offer age old wisdom about repentance, judgment, forgiveness and grace to a generation so deeply in need of it.