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Church Talk : Caring for our common home, Earth

Friday 29 September 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features


Church Talk : Caring for our common  home, Earth
St Francis of Assisi is still revered throughout the world by both Christians and non-Christians alike because of his tremendous love for nature, the earth and all creatures on it. 23092806/23092807

‘The Season of Creation’ is a major focus and theme in the Catholic Church, one month before the feast of St Francis of Assisi which the Church celebrates on October 4, writes Bishop Paul Donoghue of the Catholic Church.

Pope John Paul II proclaimed St Francis of Assisi as patron saint of the environment in 1979. Francis was born in Assisi (Italy) in the year 1182. Surprisingly today, 900 years after his death, he is revered throughout the world by both Christians and non-Christians alike because of his tremendous love for nature, the earth and all creatures on it.  

We would refer to him as being a simple man who revered nature as a wonderful gift of God to the human race. He deeply sensed the universal works of the creator and, filled with a certain divine spirit he composed the well-known and very beautiful hymn “The Canticle of the Sun”. In this hymn Francis invites “all his brother and sister creatures” to praise the Creator. These creatures include “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon”, “Brother Fire” and Sister Water” as well as “Sister Earth, our Mother”.

Through creation, Francis offered fitting praise, glory, honour and all blessing to the most high, all powerful good Lord, thus echoing the praise of creation in the Canticle of the three young men in the fiery furnace (ref Dan: 3:57-88).

Those who promote the good of the environment when looking for a patron for their work will find in Francis of Assisi someone worthy of this title.

Given natural disasters in 2023 with regards to floods, wildfires, stronger cyclones than previously, extreme temperatures both on land and in the ocean, many of us would have asked ourselves the question, “What is happening with our world today?”. The frequently heard answer is “Climate Change”. It is not surprising to hear many of our leaders coming out with statements such as: “Every person living on this planet is to care for our shared earth”.

The Prophet Amos

Many Christian churches have banded together during this season of creation, and have taken as their common text: “Let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream.” – Amos 5: 24.

The Prophet Amos is expressing to us what God desires. That is God wanted justice to reign. After all the Book of Genesis tells us that humankind has been made in the likeness of God. Justice is as essential to us as water is necessary for our physical survival. And this justice must flow where ever it is needed; neither remaining hidden deep beneath the ground nor vanishing like water that evaporated before it can bring sustenance. God wants everyone to strive to be just in every situation, to live according to his laws and thus enable life to flourish.

When we “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) maintaining a right relationship with God, humanity and nature, then, justice and peace can flow like a never-failing stream of pure water, nourishing humanity and all creatures.

This year alone we are conscious of more and more natural disasters occurring in countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii, Turkey, Hong Kong, Morocco and Libya. We sense there is little harmony between ourselves and justice and peace. When it comes to some possible solutions to remedy climate change, I suspect some of us have the attitude, “That I never do anything that is inconvenient to me.” That is precisely why we need systemic change, to make everyone make the right choices, not just the easy ones like not using plastic bags.

Pope Francis wrote recently: “During this Season of Creation, let us dwell on those heartbeats coming from mother nature and the heartbeat of God. Today they do not beat in harmony; they are not harmonised in justice and peace. Too many of our brothers and sisters are prevented from drinking from that mighty river. Let us heed the call to stand with the victims of environmental and climate injustice, and to put an end to the senseless war against creation.”

This year I have had the privilege of listening to the Seabed Mineral Authority share with the public the research that they have done on the possibility of deep-sea mining in the Cook Islands. Over many years research has been done to ascertain whether this venture is safe for the ocean environment or not. Experts are involved as the exploration takes place. Many reports have been evaluated. And then I have read many articles in the Cook Islands News written by the Te Ipukarea Society giving findings according to their experts which put another point of view to that of the findings of the Seabed Mineral Authority. These are just two of many examples of a complex issue that is debated in the media and the general public is trapped by not knowing who to believe or trust when the experts themselves do not agree.

The Prophet Ezekiel

A couple of Sundays ago the scripture text set for the day in our church was taken from the Prophet Ezekiel 33: 7-9.

Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, "O wicked one, you shall surely die, "
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.

In this text we hear God tell Ezekiel to be a watchman for Israel. Now watchmen are supposed to guard those who hire them. God here is commissioning his watchman Ezekiel to disturb his listeners. God is telling Ezekiel that if he doesn’t speak out, he will be responsible for all the wickedness that he lets pass by. Now that is a heavy burden. Ezekiel’s only option is to tell his listeners that their behaviour is speeding up the likelihood of their impending doom.

The Watchman

Who is the watchman of climate change in our world today? Many key world leaders are more worried about sustaining their economies than making inconvenient changes. The United Nations when it comes to crucial issues is often blocked by factions within it. I understand that the key to controlling climate change is to prevent temperatures of the earth and ocean from rising. There is a breaking point that the leaders find difficult to settle on. Pope Francis frequently uses the expression, “Today our mother Earth is groaning” and he warns us that we are approaching “dangerous thresholds”. In the above text from Ezekiel, God warned his spokesman about the implications of being silent.

My conclusion is to propose a “watchman” or sentry over climate change. It seems we are confused by world experts who cannot agree amongst themselves on a solution. World leaders are often bound by rules of protocol and diplomacy that softens decisions because of not wanting to inconvenience one or two of their members.

My solution is simple. Are we prepared to listen to the voices of our young people and future generation?  Pope Francis has asked this question of the world in his book, Laudato Si. “What world do we want to leave to our children and our young? Our selfishness, our indifference and our irresponsible ways are threatening the future of our children!” The words of Pope Francis offer enough challenge for us on which to reflect and act.