Wild Lectionary: Teach Me Wisdom in My Secret Heart

products with palm oilProper 19(24)

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie

The words, “Your people… have acted perversely” could literally be stated today as “Your people are acting perversely.” Those words from Exodus are as applicable today as they were at the time that book of the Bible was written. Modern society has made idols of acquisition and consumption fed by greed for money and/or lust for power and prestige. Like Paul, in the first letter to Timothy, many of us “have acted ignorantly” in our complicity and support of these perverse systems that harm people and our relatives in creation.

The more we know about these systems, the better we can opt out of participation. When we fail, which most of us do often, we can take solace in the words of Paul to Timothy. In the second reading Paul tells us that neither our past good or bad actions nor any of our own efforts can exclude us from God’s love or the call to be collaborators in preserving the integrity of creation. What matters is that we, like Paul say, “yes” to what God calls us to do. Further, that when we lapse or screw up, to get up dust ourselves off and re-affirm our “yes” each time, as many times as it takes.

The form and substance of our call is different for everyone, but everyone is called to protect the integrity of creation. For some it might be public non-violent action for others, planting trees or permaculture and for others, it could be as simple as changing our buying habits. For example, many products we buy, including some brands of the following, contain palm oil: peanut butter, ice cream, chocolate, margarine, cookies, bread, instant noodles, shampoo, soap and lipstick. Why are products with palm oil of concern? The answer is deforestation.

Though the oil palm is native to West Africa, it is now cultivated in countries across Southeast Asia, western and central Africa, and Latin America. Malaysia and Indonesia account for approximately 90% of global palm oil production and exports, and in those countries, large tracts of tropical rainforest have been cleared for oil palm plantations. From 1990 to 2005, over 50% of new oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia were established through conversion of lowland forests.

In Indonesia, replacing the natural rainforests with palm trees is destroying the habitat of orang-utans, endangering their existence as well as the local peoples that inhabit the forests. We can stop our participation in this destruction simply by reading the labels of products and choosing to buy products that are palm oil free. We can pray along with the Psalmist: “teach me wisdom in my secret heart” and grant me the strength and love to act accordingly.

Another major contributor to deforestation is the amount of meat we eat in North America. The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Global Forest Atlas reports,

Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80% of current deforestation rates. Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and is the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one quarter of the global market.

I am guilty of being a meat lover but I know that those of us, who are not vegan or vegetarian, are called to eat less meat. Paul experienced the mercy, forgiveness, and love of God in Christ and was moved to accept Christ’s call to share this Good News. How can we become apostles of the ecological conversion that is at the heart of Christ’s call to discipleship in today’s world? We can pray along with the Psalmist: “teach me wisdom in my secret heart” and grant me the strength and love to act accordingly.


Victoria Marie is co-founder of the Vancouver Catholic Worker, on unceded Coast Salish Territory. She is a priest, member of Roman Catholic Women Priests Canada, spiritual director, and pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Inclusive Catholic Community and author of Transforming Addiction: The role of spirituality in learning recovery from addiction (Scholars Press, 2014).

Wild Lectionary is a weekly blog on ecological justice themes in the revised common lectionary, curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.


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