Tag Archives: Environment

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Noah

Thanksgiving is a good time to remember our blessings, starting with Creation itself . “All it takes is one good person” like Noah, Pope Francis says in “Laudatory Si’. Here’s his prayer:

All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty,
not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Season of Creation, September 1st -October 5th

1 September 2022, Pope Francis writes:

Dear brothers and sisters!

“Listen to the voice of creation” is the theme and invitation of this year’s Season of Creation.  The ecumenical phase begins on 1 September with the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and concludes on 4 October with the feast of Saint Francis.  It is a special time for all Christians to pray and work together to care for our common home.  Originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, this Season is an opportunity to cultivate our “ecological conversion”, a conversion encouraged by Saint John Paul II as a response to the “ecological catastrophe” predicted by Saint Paul VI back in 1970. 

If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance.  On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this our common home.

The sweet song of creation invites us to practise an “ecological spirituality” (Laudato Si’, 216), attentive to God’s presence in the natural world.  It is a summons to base our spirituality on the “loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion” (ibid., 220).  For the followers of Christ in particular, this luminous experience reinforces our awareness that “all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (Jn 1:3).  In this Season of Creation, we pray once more in the great cathedral of creation, and revel in the “grandiose cosmic choir” made up of countless creatures, all singing the praises of God.  Let us join Saint Francis of Assisi in singing: “Praise be to you, my Lord, for all your creatures” (cf. Canticle of Brother Sun).  Let us join the psalmist in singing, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” (Ps 150:6).

Tragically, that sweet song is accompanied by a cry of anguish.  Or even better: a chorus of cries of anguish.  In the first place, it is our sister, mother earth, who cries out.  Prey to our consumerist excesses, she weeps and implores us to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction.  Then too, there are all those different creatures who cry out.  At the mercy of a “tyrannical anthropocentrism” (Laudato Si’, 68), completely at odds with Christ’s centrality in the work of creation, countless species are dying out and their hymns of praise silenced.  There are also the poorest among us who are crying out.  Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent.  Likewise, our brothers and sisters of the native peoples are crying out.  As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, “provoking a cry that rises up to heaven” (Querida Amazonia, 9).  Finally, there is the plea of our children.  Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.

Listening to these anguished cries, we must repent and modify our lifestyles and destructive systems.  From its very first pages, the Gospel calls us to “repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt 3:2); it summons us to a new relationship with God, and also entails a different relationship with others and with creation.  The present state of decay of our common home merits the same attention as other global challenges such as grave health crises and wars.  “Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” (Laudato Si’, 217).

As persons of faith, we feel ourselves even more responsible for acting each day in accordance with the summons to conversion.  Nor is that summons simply individual: “the ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion” (ibid., 219).  In this regard, commitment and action, in a spirit of maximum cooperation, is likewise demanded of the community of nations, especially in the meetings of the United Nations devoted to the environmental question.  

The COP27 conference on climate change, to be held in Egypt in November 2022 represents the next opportunity for all to join in promoting the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.  For this reason too, I recently authorized the Holy See, in the name of and on behalf of the Vatican City State, to accede to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, in the hope that the humanity of the 21st century “will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 65).  The effort to achieve the Paris goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C is quite demanding; it calls for responsible cooperation between all nations in presenting climate plans or more ambitious nationally determined contributions in order to reduce to zero, as quickly as possible, net greenhouse gas emissions.  This means “converting” models of consumption and production, as well as lifestyles, in a way more respectful of creation and the integral human development of all peoples, present and future, a development grounded in responsibility, prudence/precaution, solidarity, concern for the poor and for future generations.  Underlying all this, there is need for a covenant between human beings and the environment, which, for us believers, is a mirror reflecting “the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”.  The transition brought about by this conversion cannot neglect the demands of justice, especially for those workers who are most affected by the impact of climate change.

For its part, the COP15 summit on biodiversity, to be held in Canada in December, will offer to the goodwill of governments a significant opportunity to adopt a new multilateral agreement to halt the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.  According to the ancient wisdom of the Jubilee, we need to “remember, return, rest and restore”.  In order to halt the further collapse of biodiversity, our God-given “network of life”, let us pray and urge nations to reach agreement on four key principles: 1. to construct a clear ethical basis for the changes needed to save biodiversity; 2. to combat the loss of biodiversity, to support conservation and cooperation, and to satisfy people’s needs in a sustainable way; 3. to promote global solidarity in light of the fact that biodiversity is a global common good demanding a shared commitment; and 4. to give priority to people in situations of vulnerability, including those most affected by the loss of biodiversity, such as indigenous peoples, the elderly and the young.

Let me repeat: “In the name of God, I ask the great extractive industries – mining, oil, forestry, real estate, agribusiness – to stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people”.

How can we fail to acknowledge the existence of an “ecological debt” (Laudato Si’, 51) incurred by the economically richer countries, who have polluted most in the last two centuries; this demands that they take more ambitious steps at COP27 and at COP15.  In addition to determined action within their borders, this means keeping their promises of financial and technical support for the economically poorer nations, which are already experiencing most of the burden of the climate crisis.  It would also be fitting to give urgent consideration to further financial support for the conservation of biodiversity.  Even the economically less wealthy countries have significant albeit “diversified” responsibilities (cf. ibid., 52) in this regard; delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act.  It is necessary for all of us to act decisively.  For we are reaching “a breaking point” (cf. ibid., 61).

During this Season of Creation, let us pray that COP27 and COP15 can serve to unite the human family (cf. ibid., 13) in effectively confronting the double crisis of climate change and the reduction of biodiversity.  Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), let us weep with the anguished plea of creation.  Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 16 July 2022,  Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Blessing Herbs, Medicines and Fields: August 15th

In medieval times medicinal herbs were blessed on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, especially in Northern Europe. The fields were also blessed that day asking God to make them fertile the next year.

At the end of the Mass for the feast, herbs were brought into the church or to a holy well and were sprinkled with water, while prayers were said thanking God for the gifts of creation. The herbs were then brought home and a sprig was placed on the wall where children slept, asking God to keep the children strong and healthy.

Why were herbs and fields blessed on the Feast of the Assumption? Mary is often identified with flowers; she’s the “flower of the field and the lily of the valley”;  she brought life and the “living water” Jesus Christ into the world.

I can remember as a kid being told on the Feast of the Assumption to go into the water (in those days  the Newark Bay, polluted waters now). There’s a cure in the water, my mother told me. Others I know remember being told the same thing. I’m sure my mother was following the ancient custom.

It’s a custom we could benefit from today, isn’t it? We’re connected to creation. Most of our medicines come from plants. What we eat comes from the soil. Let’s bless herbs and medicines and fields and our gardens with holy water on the Feast of the Assumption. Maybe also put a sprig over a child’s bed (or our own). We need customs to reinforce our creation connection.

I’m hoping we might bring some holy water to our Mary Garden after the 11 AM Mass on August 15th.

Calming the Storms (Matthew 14:22-36)

Jesus storm at sea
The giant waves on the Sea of Galilee in Rembrandt painting would be hard to survive, let alone walk on, but that’s what Jesus did, Matthew’s gospel today tells us. Jesus walked on the waters and tamed them. Only God does that, the psalms say.

“You uphold the mountains with your strength.
You are girded with power.
You still the roaring of the seas
And the roaring of their waves,
And the tumult of the peoples. “ Psalm 65

We usually read the stories of the disciples in the storm at sea as stories of rescue, and they are. God saves us from the storms we face on our life journey. But first, the stories testify to Jesus’ mastery over creation. On the shore his power touched human beings, like the leper, the deaf and those who could not speak; on the sea he rules creation. “Truly, you are the Son of God,” his disciples say after he gets into the boat and the wind dies down. (Matthew 14,22-36)

In his encyclical on the environment “Laudato Si” Pope Francis emphasizes the power of God over creation. As creator and savior, God gives all things their dignity and purpose. Human beings are not lords of this world, God alone is.

The story of Peter in our gospel takes on new interest in that perspective. Jesus invites him to walk on the water, giving him a share in God’s power. But Peter’s fear and lack of faith overcomes him. He begins to sink.

In our unfolding environmental crisis (storms, winds, floods) are we like Peter, called to share God’s power but turning away from our responsibility to calm the waters? Too big for us to take on. If that’s so, we sink.

July 4: Independence Day

Independence Day. It seems we’re a nation wondering what that all means today. So where can we learn about what this day means? Historians tell us it say didn’t happen without much struggle. Political fighting, interest groups, foreign powers, war–all had a part in it. Founding our country was not as easy as we might think. But somehow all these conflicting interests came together around an ideal.

Can we remember that ideal today?

The Declaration of Independence was a statement of great ideals, but those ideals still need to be applied to some others. Have the native peoples here on this continent before us, the African peoples brought here as slaves, been treated as “created equal” with “certain unalienable rights?”

Have the poor and the immigrant been seen as equal?

Church feasts celebrate graces of God. They lift us up to aspire to great ideals and promises. We’re called today to do what church feasts do. Pray and still celebrate. But we always begin feasts with prayers for forgiveness, acknowledgement of failures, and calls for mercy: “Lord, have mercy.”

“America the Beautiful… God mend thine every flaw, and crown thy good with brotherhood, with liberty and law.”

Then, hope it can all come true, dreams that went into Independence Day.

Father of all nations and ages,
we recall the day when our country
claimed its place among the family of nations;
for what has been achieved we give you thanks,
for the work that still remains we ask your help,
and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings
with all the peoples of the earth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Waters of the Jordan and the Sea

The land where Jesus lived spoke to him and inspired so many of the parables he taught. Did the water speak to him too? Jesus went into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized Mark’s Gospel says, and he heard his Father’s voice and the Spirit rested on him. His ministry continued around the Sea of Galilee. The towns he visited were there; he taught on its shores. He traveled its waters and encountered its storms. He called disciples there.

Pilgrims today still look quietly on those waters when they visit this holy place. From the mountains above, the Sea of Galilee becomes a stage for gospel stories heard before. The waters of the Jordan flowing into it and out on their way to the Dead Sea remind them how realistic the mysteries of faith are. Fishermen, along with cormorants and herons, still fish the waters. At night, a stillness centuries old, takes over.

.Jesus began his ministry here. This land and its waters spoke to him.

The Jordan River figures in many of scriptures’ sacred stories and it’s still vital to this land today. It winds almost 200 miles from its sources at the base of the Golan mountains in the north into the Sea of Galilee and then on to the Dead Sea in the south. The direct distance from one end to the other is only about 60 miles. The river falls almost 3,000 feet on its way to the Dead Sea,.

The Jordan is sacred to Jews from the time they miraculously crossed it on their way to the Promised Land. The great Jewish prophet Elijah came from a town near the river’s banks. Later he found safety from his enemies there.

Elijah’s successor, the Prophet Elisha, also from the Jordan area, told Naaman a Syrian general to bathe in the river to be cured of his leprosy, and he was cured. Ancient hot springs near Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee fostered the river’s curative reputation then. They’re still used today.

At the time of Jesus, the river’s fresh flowing waters were the life-blood of the land, making the Sea of Galilee teem with fish and the plains along its banks fertile for agriculture. Pilgrims from Galilee were guided by the Jordan on their way to Jericho and then to Jerusalem and its temple.

The Jordan Today

The river is still essential to the region. Lake Kineret, as the Israelis call the Sea of Galilee, is the primary source of drinking water for the region and crucial for its agriculture. The use of water from the Jordan is a major point of controversy between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

cf: “The Disputed Waters of the Jordan” by C. G. Smith Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers No. 40 (Dec., 1966), pp. 111-128 Oxford, England.

Nourishing Prophets

The Jordan nourished prophets in the past.  Somewhere near Jericho where people forded the river John the Baptist preached to and baptized pilgrims going to the Holy City. The place where John baptized was hardly a desert as we think of it. It was a deserted place that offered sufficient food for survival, like the “ grass-hoppers and wild honey” John ate, but this uncultivated place taught you to depend on what God provided.

Jesus taught this too. “I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Mt 6, 25 ff) The desert was a place to put worry aside and trust in the goodness of God.

When Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan to be baptized, he acknowledged his heavenly Father as the ultimate Source of Life, the creator of all things. Water, as it always is,  was a holy sign of life.  Like the prophets Elijah and John the Baptist, Jesus remained in this wilderness near the water for forty days to prepare for his divine mission. He readied himself to depend on God for everything.

The Jordan after Jesus

Later, when the Roman empire turned Christian in the 4th century, Christians came to the Jordan River in great numbers on Easter and on the Feast of the Epiphany to remember the One who was baptized there. They went into the sacred waters, and many took some of it home in small containers.

Early Christian pilgrims like Egeria, a nun from Gaul who came to the Holy Land around the year 415 AD, left an account of her visit to the Jordan where she looked for the place of Jesus’ baptism.  Monks who had already settled near the river brought her to a place called Salim, near Jericho. The town, associated with the priest Melchisedech, was surrounded by fertile land which had a revered spring that flowed into the Jordan close by. Here’s how she described it:

“We came to a very beautiful fruit orchard, in the center of which the priest showed us a spring of the very purest and best water, which gives rise to a real stream. In front of the spring there is a sort of pool where it seems that St. John the Baptist administered baptism. Then the saintly priest said to us: ‘To this day this garden is known as the garden of St. John.’ There are many other brothers, holy monks coming from various places, who come to wash in that spring.

“The saintly priest also told us that even today all those who are to be baptized in this village, that is in the church of Melchisedech, are always baptized in this very spring at Easter; they return very early by candlelight with the clergy and the monks, singing psalms and antiphons; and all who have been baptized are led back early from the spring to the church of Melchisedech.” p 73

A 19th Century Pilgrim at the Jordan

Christians in great numbers have visited the Jordan River since Egeria. Towards the end of the 19th century, an English vicar, Cunningham Geikie, described  Christian pilgrims following the venerable tradition of visiting its waters.

“Holy water is traditionally carried away by ship masters visiting the river as pilgrims to sprinkle their ships before a voyage; and we are told that all pilgrims alike went into the water wearing a linen garment, which they sacredly preserved  as a winding sheet to be wrapped around them at their death.

“The scene of the yearly bathing of pilgrims now is near the ford, about two miles above the Dead Sea, each sect having its own particular spot, which it fondly believes to be exactly where our Savior was baptized…

“Each Easter Monday thousands of pilgrims start, in a great caravan, from Jerusalem, under the protection of the Turkish government; a white flag and loud music going before them, while Turkish soldiers, with the green standard of the prophet, close the long procession. On the Greek Easter Monday, the same spectacle is repeated, four or five thousand pilgrims joining in the second caravan. Formerly the numbers going to the Jordan each year was much greater, from fifteen to twenty thousand….”(Cunningham Geikie, The Holy Land and the Bible,Vol 2, New York, 1890 pp 404-405)

The Jordan and Christian Baptism

Today, every Catholic parish church at its baptistery celebrates the mystery of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan as new believers receive new life and regular believers remember their own baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some eastern Christian churches prefer calling their baptisteries simply “the Jordan.”

Today the most authentic site of Jesus’ Baptism, according to archeologists, is in Jordanian territory at el-Maghtas, where a large church and pilgrim center has been built following excavations begun in 1996 by Jordanian archeologists. It is probably the  “Bethany beyond the Jordan” mentioned in the New Testament where Jesus was baptized and John the Baptist preached.

http://www.lpj.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=599%3Achurch-of-the-baptism-of-jesus-christ-maghtas-project-jordan&catid=81&Itemid=113&lang=en

The Jordan River offers a commentary on the mystery of death and resurrection of Jesus, expressed in his baptism.  At one end of the river is the Sea of Galilee brimming with life, and at the other end is the Dead Sea a symbol of death. The river holds these two realities together, and if we reverse its course we can see the gift God gives us through Jesus Christ.

Like him, we pass through the waters of baptism from death to life.

Do Your Job!

We celebrated the feast of Christ the King last Sunday. It’s hard to think of Christ as King in a world where kings are few. Most governments are governed by ordinary people, not kings. Royal families, where they exist, have mainly ceremonial roles.

Yet, Jesus Christ is king, and what’s more we share in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king. (Catholic Catechism 1546) We’re all priests, prophets and kings by our baptism. “We’re a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart,” (1 Peter 2,5)

How are we kings? Adam, our first parent, may suggest what kind of king we should be. There he is in the illustration from the Book of Genesis above, given kingly powers by God. In the garden, the symbol of the created world, he names the animals and is given care over God’s creation.

Psalms, like Psalm 8 (Saturday Morning, week 2), remind us that’s our role.
When I see the heavens, the work of your hands,
The moon and the stars that you arranged,
What are we that you keep us in mind,,
Mortal as we are that you care for us.

Yet you have made us little less than gods,
With glory and honor you crown us,
You have give us power over the works of your hand,
Put all things under our feet.”

Today’s lectionary readings from Daniel and Luke’s Gospel (Friday) can give the impression that the created world is going to be torn apart and discarded when God’s kingdom comes. But that’s not so. Creation itself awaits the promise of resurrection.

We have been given kingly care over creation. Let’s not forget it. We’re not here to save ourselves. The purpose of our life is not to escape from this world. We’re to care for creation and to make it ready for God’s kingdom.

We need to do our job.

Caring for Creation

f

St. Francis is one of those super saints  to keep in mind, even after his feast day. I mentioned in a previous blog the statue of Francis facing St. John Lateran and Pope Innocent’s dream of a young man who, like Francis, held up the church’s walls ready to fall.  Francis helped renew the church.

In his encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis paints a verbal picture of Francis, holding his arms out to the created world, caring for our endangered planet:

“I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

“Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.

“His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour.

“If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.

What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

I like the pope’s words: “Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.”

Praying with Creation During Lent

 Father John O’Brien, a liturgist from my community, wrote an essay in 2004 entitled: “Thomas Berry, the Easter Vigil and the Greening of the Liturgy” 

“This essay”, he wrote, “ argues that the next horizon of liturgical development will require a paradigm shift in understanding and spirituality. This is a shift from a present anthropocentrism to a new role and placement for creation. Although the liturgy has used the stuff of creation to celebrate the magnalia Dei, it has emphasized that water and food, bread and wine, soil and oil, rocks and rivers are at the service of the human community. Creation exists for human use and the promotion of human redemption. If this redemptive motif prevails, humankind may flourish into the immediate future. But the earth that sustains human life will be diminished and destroyed.”

The liturgy can help us acquire this new vision, John suggested, and the Easter Vigil might be a good place to start. The play of light and darkness in the vigil, the fire in the dark, the Genesis readings, the waters of baptism and blessing are reminders of creation in the Easter story.  But in his essay John recognized that people weren’t exactly flocking to the Easter Vigil then. They’re not now.   

Better to start with our daily liturgy, our daily prayer? Should we look more closely at what our prayers say and how we pray every day? 

Daily prayer, particularly the psalms, can help us bond with creation. The reading from Isaiah this Tuesday says God’s word comes down from heaven like rain and snow, watering the earth and providing for the human family as well. Rain and snow are more than figures of speech, they’re messengers from God, beyond human control. Created by God they lead us to God, bestowing his gifts on us. God speaks daily through created things like these, the psalms say: 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.

Day unto day pours forth speech;

night unto night whispers knowledge.  (Psalm 19,2-4)

Morning with the rising sun, evening with the promise of new light, with a voice not heard, without speech or words, creation speaks for God and is promised a place in the new creation with us. 

The Holy Spirit, the “Lord and Giver of Life”, “God adored and glorified along with the Father and the Son” sustains creation, Elizabeth Johnson writes in her book “Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love” (2014). Key biblical images, powerful natural forces like blowing wind, flowing water, and blazing fire expand the notion of the active presence of the Spirit in the world God made.

At morning Mass candles are lit. Tongues of fire come upon us now. The fire that created the Big Bang billions of years ago is with us now, as the bread and wine, and water enter our cosmic prayer.

Can daily prayer, if we let it, give us eyes to see creation as our partner in praising God. Our readings this 1st week of Lent are about prayer. They begin Monday with the final judgment from Matthew’s gospel. Those judged ask “when did we see you” in the “the least.”

Can we say “the least” also includes creation, which today we have reduced to the least? Can prayer be a way of seeing it?

God Saw It Was Good

Creation story, BL

Here’s Pope Francis’ commentary on todays reading from Genesis:

“And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). God’s gaze, at the beginning of the Bible, rests lovingly on his creation. From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share our common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God, who offers creation to men and women as a precious gift to be preserved.

Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation, a place of encounter and sharing, into an arena of competition and conflict. In this way, the environment itself is endangered: something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited in human hands. 

Deterioration has increased in recent decades: constant pollution, the continued use of fossil fuels, intensive agricultural exploitation and deforestation are causing global temperatures to rise above safe levels. The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are causing immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us. Melting of glaciers, scarcity of water, neglect of water basins and the considerable presence of plastic and microplastics in the oceans are equally troubling, and testify to the urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed. 

We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.

In effect, we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27) and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home. 

We were created not to be tyrants, but to be at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator. 

Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation.

Pope Francis, September 1, 2019