What and who do we value?

“The kingdom of heaven is like … a treasure buried … a pearl of great price.” Every day our newspapers carry stories of COVID-19 and the loss of jobs as businesses are closed and people are asked to stay at home. But there are other stories, too, stories of improved air and water quality. Fewer people traveling means fewer airplanes in the sky, and the trend toward people working from home has resulted in fewer cars on the road.

Some scientists suggest that this unsettled time may offer an opportunity to explore the use of alternative power — wind, solar, nuclear, etc. Others suggest drilling new oil wells in previously protected areas of our country. Debates rage; do we protect our own pristine lands at the expense of third world devastation? Do we divert funding to farmers who grow corn for ethanol? What are the post-COVID consequences of wind turbines on migrating birds? Where do we go with nuclear waste? Do we really have the right to shoot our garbage out into space?

Everyone has their treasure. For some it’s the environment; for others it’s the availability of cheap fuel. Declining automobile sales are forcing manufacturers to begin designing more fuel-efficient vehicles for a population that treasures its transportation independence. Conservationists point out the effect of drilling and mining on First Nations lands in our own country as well as on foreign rainforests and grasslands. In other words, what some see as a crisis, others view as an opportunity. How we respond, however, will depend largely on what we treasure.

My mother always said that “[A]ll things work for good for those who love God.” But loving God cannot be limited to one hour on Sunday. Loving God demands that we also love all that God has created. Loving God demands that we love the Divine Spirit present in every man and woman, no matter where they live.

Do we see the land as “treasure”? Or only as an opportunity for exploitation? What do we value? Who do we value? Will the challenges of our current pandemic work for good? Or when it’s over will we forget and buy the wrong field?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.