The Gift of Life and Creation
God created the earth. Often, the way we treat creation leads to the harm of it and those living on it. Our destruction of the earth for quick gain has repercussions for animals, for ourselves now and for generations to come. We need to treat the earth with respect.
In Genesis the first humans are given responsibility for caring for creation, but despite this it has not always been a strong theme of Christian thinking over the last 2,000 years. Care for creation is even a latecomer to Catholic Social Teaching. Now the world’s resources grow scarcer, caring responsibly for creation is being considered more of a way to ensure respect for human dignity and peace than an end in itself.
Creation provides us with the physical fabric of our lives; the natural environment gives us the stuff we use every day. It gives us the food for our tables, the material for our clothes and the materials to build our houses, schools and churches. It is also a place where people have experienced a great closeness with God through its beauty and wonder. Creation is a gift from God and provides us with these things, the basics for our lives, yet it can so easily and so often be taken for granted.
Modern technology has given us a huge amount of benefits that have helped alleviate suffering and create new methods of solidarity among people. At the same time we can also see how it has made it easier for us to become alienated from our environment, and it is given new and efficient ways to plunder the world’s natural resources en-masse. Care for Creation ensures that we do not neglect, but protect and respect the gift that is our natural environment.
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken of the need for ‘ecological conversion’. The first took as his theme for World Peace Day in 1990: Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation. This Pope who loved to walk in the mountains, stated that, ‘a new ecological awareness is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programmes and initiatives’. He condemned the squandering of finite resources while millions live in poverty, describing the ecological crisis as ‘a moral issue’.
In the 1991 document Centesimus Annus (The One Hundredth Year), the Pope insisted that the state has the task of providing ‘for the defence and preservation of common good such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces’.
Pope Benedict XVI reflected in his 2008 World Peace Day message that ‘respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man, but, rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests’. In July 2008, he opened his first visit to Australia and to the World Youth Day events there by reminding everyone of the need to protect the environment. ‘With many thousands of young people visiting Australia at this time, it is appropriate to reflect upon the kind of world we are handing on to future generations,’ said the Pope. ‘God’s creation is one and it is good; the concerns for non-violence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity.’
‘Perhaps reluctantly we come to acknowledge that there are also scars which mark the surface of our earth: erosion, deforestation, the squandering of the world’s mineral and ocean resources in order to fuel an insatiable consumption. Some of you come from island nations whose very existence is threatened by rising water levels; others from nations suffering the effects of devastating drought. God’s wondrous creation is sometimes experienced as almost hostile to its stewards, even something dangerous. How can what is ‘good’ appear so threatening?’ Pope Benedict XVI, World Youth Day, 2008
‘Take good care of creation. St. Francis wanted that. People occasionally forgive, but nature never does. If we do not take care of the environment, there is no way of getting around it’. Pope Francis
‘The ecological crisis shows the urgency of a solidarity which embraces time and space… A greater sense of intergenerational solidarity is urgently needed. Future generations cannot be saddled with the cost of our use of common environmental resources’. Pope Benedict XVI, World Peace Day Message, 2010
Genesis 1:1-31 God made the heavens and the earth and it was good.
Genesis 2:15 Humans are commanded to care for God’s creation.
Daniel 3:56-82 Creation proclaims the glory of God.
Matthew 6:25-34 God loves and cares for all of creation.
Romans 1:20 Creation reveals the nature of God.
1Corinthians 10:26 Creation and all created things are inherently good because they are of the Lord.
Link it to key Church documents such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Papal documents etc.
Laudato si’: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html is a passionate call to all people of the world to take ‘swift and unified global action’, particularly in relation to the destruction of the environment. Pope Francis writes that while humanity has made incredible progress in science and technology, this has not been matched with moral, ethical and spiritual growth. This imbalance is causing our relationships with creation and with God to break down and our hearts to become hardened to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. We become arrogant and neglect creation and everyone that is part of it; forgetting what God has entrusted to our care.
Centesimus Annus: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_01051991_centesimus-annus.html
Link to a particular Saint whose charism is linked to this particular principle
Saint Francis of Assisi: https://www.biography.com/people/st-francis-of-assisi-21152679
Links to local/national groups associated with this principle
52 Steps to Make Life Greener: http://www.catholicsocialteaching.org.uk/themes/care-creation/resources/52-tips-life-greener/
Spiritual Steps in Sustainable Living: http://www.catholicsocialteaching.org.uk/themes/care-creation/resources/changing-climate-spiritual-steps-sustainable-living/
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 deliver the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognise 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. (From Laudato Si’)
Questions for personal/group reflection
What attitudes and views do I hold about the earth? Are they embracing or destructive, or simply indifferent? What has led to these views? What has led me to form these views? Do I consider the impact of my actions on the earth and its resources? For example what is the impact of my travel plans, or my daily takeaway cup of coffee? What does it mean for the earth and other people if I leave the tap running for a while? How far has my food travelled to get to me?
I wonder what people in developing countries who struggle to feed their families think of the amount of food that is wasted here in the UK? Are there any changes I can make in my life? Can I grow some of my own food? Or can I cut down on the amount I buy? Maybe I can buy some things from local producers?
What does living in a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ mean in terms of caring for the precious earth’s resources? Do I really need to use the car for every single journey that I do? Are there any journeys I can make on foot or sharing a car?