Let us make every day an Earth Day Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 16, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

On clear mornings from my apartment window which faces Platteville's Mound, I enjoy watching the morning sun, like a huge orange-red host, rise majestically from earth's chalice, inspiring me to offer a new day to God.

Beautiful sunrises deepen my respect for God's gift of creation. Celebrating Earth Day on April 22 reminds me of my responsibility to care for this gift.

Earth Day: reflecting on creation

Earth Day was started by Wisconsin Senator and Governor Gaylord Nelson in order to teach us to take better care of the environment.

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."

Earth Day invites us to reflect upon the Genesis creation verses, which reveal that Earth and the entire web of life are gifts created as good by God.

God created men and women to be stewards of creation. We must not exploit Earth, but tend and care for her.

Earth is our home and our second mother. As a good mother, she offers us the bread of food, drink, air, clothing, and shelter. She feeds our spirit with the beauty of flowers, trees, animals, and other gifts.

Our moral responsibilities

Recent popes and bishops have stressed our moral responsibilities towards the earth. Pope Benedict XVI stated, "The destruction of the environment is a stark example of how our future survival requires that people obey nature's laws, especially when everyone else is taking shortcuts that may increase their pleasure at the moment, but are obviously damaging in the long term."

Earth Day reminds us that animals are part of our social and physical environment. When he became pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Francis because he admired Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology.

Awareness of ecology

In college, I learned that ecology was basically humanity's relationship with our environment. Pope Francis has stated that although there has been a growing awareness of ecological concerns, humanity has "been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments, including the family, are also threatened."

This is why Pope Francis called for a General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

I learned about ecology from a 4-H project, a grade school farming textbook, and a conservation course at Platteville University. Since then, responsibility towards the environment has been emphasized in schools, religion classes, and in the media.

What we can do

We are becoming increasingly aware of how our actions, and/or lack thereof, impact our environment.

We can celebrate Earth Day by taking the St. Francis pledge to care for the poor whom Pope Francis loves and who are part of our social environment. We can make simplicity, moderation, discipline, and a spirit of sacrifice a key part of everyday life.

We can recycle, use renewable energy at home and work, or buy or grow organic foods. We can ask elected officials to vote for responsible legislation that helps and heals the environment. If we are able, we can plant a tree, walk, ride a bike, or participate in other activities.

Watching TV nature programs can reinforce our belief that the diversity and unique gifts of earth and creatures didn't happen by chance. Some intelligence surely directed it. Our vast universe, the mini-universe of a cell, and beautiful sunrises can open windows to God's presence.

Responsible ecology begins with respect. When we respect earth, we respect her creator who made us to care for and work with Earth's gifts.

Let us continue to respect the environment, so future generations enjoy its blessings as much or more than us. Making every day an Earth Day would delight God!

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