As a people created by God to be one human family, we are called to conversion on many levels; spiritual, human, even ecological. (That may be a new word for many!) As readers of this blog know, I have a long-standing love for nature, a great appreciation for finding the Creator in creation, and seeing how lessons of nature translate easily into our own spiritual life.
As another Earth Day approaches (April 22) and, perhaps more importantly, as we prepare to celebrate the 6th Anniversary of the landmark Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis On Care For Our Common Home (May 24, 2015), it is fitting to think of the responsibility we all share to be good stewards of God’s beautiful creation.
In the opening paragraphs of Laudato Si – On Care For Our Common Home, Pope Francis writes:
We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Genesis 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (number 2)
As believers, our starting point for everything is God, who has no beginning or end, who created all things, and sustains all life. Everyone and everything (including our beautiful Earth) is connected through the Creator of all.
In every human person exists a conscience, where God has written an eternal law. In this interior place of every human person, God speaks, helping us discover our dignity; helping us find what is good and what should be avoided. It is in this interior relationship and conversation with God that we discover the basic law to love God and neighbor. (See Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes – On the Church in the Modern World, number 16)
Close observation of nature reveals the mystery of God and the natural laws that hold all of creation in harmony. Our understanding of God as Creator instructs us that we should look to God for direction in how we use the things of this earth as well as how we are to have a deep respect for what God has created.
In Laudato Si, Pope Francis draws from the wisdom of Patriarch Bartholomew:
Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology, but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.” As Christians, we are also called, “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.” (LS number 9)
Let us take up this challenge of conversion, this “change of humanity” which Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis are calling for.
- How is my own practice of consumption contributing to the deterioration of creation?
- Where am I more concerned about what I want instead of being conscious of what the world family needs?
- How aware am I of the Divine Presence in my day-to-day life, and how well am I responding with respect, reverence, awe?
One simple area of focus for every person’s life is the food we consume. Did you know that 20% of waste in U.S. landfills is food?! Once these landfills are covered over, this food rots, without air, and releases methane (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.. Did you also know that approximately 40% of all food in the U.S. never makes it to tables? An estimated 40 – 50% of this waste comes from consumers, and the rest from businesses. This wastefulness goes beyond the food itself – there is an inherent waste of the energy and resources used to produce that food in the first place.
Just think what a difference we could make by “changing” this one aspect of human activity. Planning food preparation, cooking only what we purchase, and eating what we prepare can make a huge difference in the amount of waste going to landfills.
This is something that I am personally working on. This winter I started a compost in my backyard – and this spring I started a garden! I find I am wasting less, and able to put most all of my food waste into the compost to eventually feed my garden.
I will write more on this topic in the coming months. Let’s all do our part to care for God’s creation. In the process, our spirits will be renewed as well as our relationships with God, one another, and our common home.