Earth Day invites us to care for our home on Earth Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Written by Fr. Donald Lange   
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

I gratefully recall the evening when Dad and I sat on our front lawn and studied the farmer's green field across the road.

The sun like a beautiful orange-red host sank slowly into the chalice of God's good earth. It was a heavenly moment of harmony between God, nature, Dad, and me.

The Earth is God's

Dad broke the sacred silence by saying, "You know, we don't really own anything!''

During the silence that followed, I visualized the deed to our land. In my imagination, owner after owner paraded across its pages.

Dad was right. God owns the land. We are earth's temporary caretakers. When we die, the land we temporarily own passes on to others.

In Psalm 24, it says, "The Earth is God's and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein."

We are stewards of the land

In Genesis, it says that God created men and women and made them stewards of the land. Scripture reveals that we cannot be in a right relationship with God unless we are in a right relationship with the land.

The Hebrews believed the "land" meant the ground, the trees and plants, the rivers and seas, the animals, and all other human beings, even the air we breathe. An astonishing world of beauty and plenty for all is God's temporary loan for us to enjoy.

Caring for the Earth

We celebrate Earth Day on April 22. It was started by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to teach and to inspire us to better care for the environment. Over one billion persons in 192 countries now take part in it.

Senator Nelson declared: "The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment and other living creatures will require a long, sustained, political, moral, ethical, and financial commitment, far beyond any effort made before." He was a prophet!

In his 2015 Earth Day Message, Pope Francis stated, "The Earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated. The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation, and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, sisters, and future generations."

The Venerable Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, who served in Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, including our diocese, respected creation. Creation helped him to feel closer to God.

In her book, Samuel Mazzuchelli, American Dominican, Sr. Mary Nona McGreal wrote, "Landscaping was one of Father Mazzuchelli's Italian gifts. At Sinsinawa Mound and Benton, the land was barren because of extensive mining. In both places, he planted trees to beautify the land, prevent erosion, and help provide other benefits.'' In these and other ways, he practiced good ecology.

St. Francis of Assisi, whose name Pope Francis took, is the patron saint of ecology. He loved God's creation. So does Pope Francis. In 2016 Pope Francis wrote a groundbreaking encyclical on creation entitled Laudato Si' (On Care of our Common Home). Our pope wrote that we humans must care for creation and share its fruits with one another, especially the poor, through little daily actions.

Celebrating Earth Day

We can join the Earth Day network as an individual or group. We can take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.

If we are able, we can plant trees, walk, or ride a bike. We can recycle, use renewable energy at home and work. We can become better informed about the Church's teaching regarding the environment and teach the young to do the same. We can keep practicing good habits of ecology.

Earth Day's 2018 theme is "End Plastic Pollution." This is a problem Father Mazzuchelli did not have to face. According to the 2018 Earth Day organizers, plastic pollution is not just an environmental crisis, but an urgent public health, human rights, and social justice issue.

It poisons marine life, disrupts human hormones, litters our beaches, and clogs our streams. Inspired by the ecology movement, highway pickup was an almost immediate success, but ending plastics pollution will take longer. For this reason, it is part of a five-year effort that began in 2016, builds up to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, and continues for the next decade.

The End Plastic Pollution campaign includes three key components: educating citizens to help them change their behaviors and those of their communities; engaging business leaders to establish new commitments to reduce and eliminate plastic pollution; and working with governments to build support for a global framework to prevent and manage plastic pollution.

As Dad taught me, we don't own the earth. God does. We are its temporary stewards. When we respect, care for, and work with creation, we respect God.

Let us make each day an Earth Day so we can help future generations enjoy creation's blessings as much or more than we do. Together, we can do it!

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