Being responsible stewards of creation Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, by Fr. Don Lange

One morning as I walked to the Mound cafeteria for breakfast, I saw the rising sun, like a bright orange-red host, rise slowly from the chalice of the good earth. It was beautiful!

In the cafeteria, two Sisters were also deeply moved by its beauty. One of them exclaimed, “This is my morning prayer!”

Celebrating Earth Day

Sharing a beautiful sunrise or sunset can bond us with others and open us to God’s presence. It can invite us to respect God’s gift of earth. It can help prepare us for Earth Day.

We celebrate Earth Day on April 22. Earth Day was started by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin to teach and to inspire the public to take better care of the environment.

In Earth Day ceremonies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Senator Nelson declared: “The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment, between man and other living creatures will require a long, sustained, political, moral, ethical, and financial commitment, far beyond any effort made before.”

Our moral responsibility

Earth Day can invite us to reflect upon teachings from Scripture and recent popes and bishops regarding our moral responsibility towards creation.

The Genesis creation account reveals that earth and the entire web of life is a gift created as good by God. In Genesis 2:15, it says, “The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”

We are called to cooperate with God as responsible stewards in respecting and caring for creation rather than exploiting it. Mistreating creation diminishes human dignity, violates nature, and endangers our future.

In the article, “Ecology: Key to teaching young people about Christian morality”, Cindy Wooden writes that “Pope Benedict XVI believes that ecology is a widely accepted moral concern, but one that points much deeper: Nature itself teaches that some things are naturally right and some are naturally wrong.”

Pope Benedict stated, “The destruction of the environment is a stark example of how future survival requires that people obey the laws of nature, especially when everyone else is taking shortcuts that may increase their temporary pleasure, but are obviously damaging in the long term.”

Respect for living together

Pope Benedict added that the Church can help young people understand that “the same natural voice telling them littering is bad, clear-cutting a forest is shameful, and that water and clean air are precious resources is really saying that life is precious. We should not only care for creation, but we must respect one another. Only with absolute respect for this creature of God, this image of God which is man, only with respect for living together on this earth can we move forward.”

Pope John Paul II wrote, “When man turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order. If man is not at peace with God, then earth itself cannot be at peace.”

Earth is our home and mother. It feeds us physically with the bread of food, drink, air, clothing, warmth, and shelter. It nourishes our spirit with the beauty of flowers, the sun, moon, stars, and other gifts of creation.

We must protect the environment so that through nature, we can continue to contemplate the mystery of God. Watching nature programs fills me with awe. It tells us that the diversity of creation and creatures did not happen by chance. Some intelligence must have directed it.

Respect for earth is respect for God

Earth Day invites us to think of ways we can become more responsible stewards of creation. In Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, it says, “Stewardship of creation requires that many people adopt a simpler life style.” Pope John Paul II said, “Simplicity, moderation, and discipline and a spirit of sacrifice must become part of everyday life lest all suffer the negative consequences of the few.”

If we are able, we can plant trees, walk, or ride a bike. We can recycle, use renewable energy at home and work, and buy or grow organic foods. We can become better informed about the Church’s teaching regarding the environment and teach the young to do the same. These are a few of many ways we can care for creation.

We do not own the earth. God does. We are its temporary stewards. When we respect, care for, and work with creation, we respect God. Let us continue to respect creation, so future generations may enjoy its blessings.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.