Here in the United States, there are many secular events that are in reality very spiritual, like Thanksgiving where we thank God for our blessings or Memorial Day when we think of/ pray for the dead. Earth Day/Month is one of these events where we become more conscious of caring for the gift of this planet from God that He gave to all.
As catholic, we know we are called to be universal, and perhaps no topic is more universal than the care of our common home. In our most sacred writings God has commanded all of us, “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28). This mandate goes beyond Jews and Catholics/Christians to all the world.
Unfortunately, for centuries, humanity has tried to insist that the command to have “dominion” over this Earth means we can manipulate it for our purposes, we get to do whatever we want. This understanding has led us to this dangerous moment of the Earth being brought to the brink of collapse with the widespread destruction of rain forests, massive pollution of our water, seas of plastic refuse (we send 14 million tons of plastic into the ocean every year), 1/3 of the food we grow is thrown away, and our energy sources pollute/heat up the environment.
Today and the whole month of April is a time for us to rethink God’s mandate to “have dominion.” Native Americans have understood this mandate better, as “care of,” not “control over.” Time and time again nature has reminded us of a truth of God, we are not the ones in control, nature is. Sure, we can manipulate it for a while but in time it will always remind us if we are doing it wrong.
So, what are we to do in the light of our faith? The first is to join with others, like our Spring-cleaning day next Saturday, to help beautify a part of the world. You could also join others to clean up a place where trash has accumulated, a park, a river, a street. You could also work to rethink our consumeristic choices that add to the problem from buying less processed food, plant a tree, get fewer products in plastic, carpool, when possible, turn lights off if not needed, and bring new ideas to our parish family.
As one who has taken a vow of poverty, this is always on my mind and explains why I brought in recycling bins and encourage us to reuse cleaned aluminum trays or avoid always using plastic tablecloths. Easter season is a time to remember YOHOP, “You Only Have One Planet.” Earth Day/month is truly a moment to become more “catholic/ universal” and taking care of our Earth is a beautiful way to do that together.
With a heart for Mission,