Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day--A Franciscan Perspective

  Today is the third Sunday of Easter.  It is also Earth Day.  Discussion of care for the earth and its environment unfortunately feeds into a lot of crazy political comment,  Those on the right dismiss it as tree-hugging and those on the left will always find something not quite politically correct in anything that is said. This, however, is not a political commentary but a spiritual one.

   Pope Benedict XVI has been called "the Green Pope" because of his many comments on the necessity of caring for this earth which God has given us.  Blessed John Paul II likewise spoke frequently on this issue. 

   How does our faith speak to us on this topic?  The answer to this question lies in how we view creation and the Creator.  Genesis has been misread, I believe, and this misreading has lead to  a view that God created nature, and then created man and woman. This leads to a poor understanding of Genesis 1:28 with its command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it.  Such an interpretation has led some to justify the plundering of the earth's resources for selfish ends.  Several articles that I have read recently remind us that any granting of dominion and authority to to subdue given to us humans is to mirror God's dominion over us, a dominion which seeks to give life and build up, a dominion which reflects the ultimate ruling of God's reign.

   I have been fascinated by the pictures that have come to us from the Hubble telescope showing the vastness of the universe and the realization that the whole universe has evolved into what now is. (I hope that readers of this blog understand that Catholics have no problem embracing evolution.).  Though things change and new things emerge we are all part of the same matter that burst forth in the beginning from our creator.  

   St. Francis of Assisi certainly did not have the benefit of understanding the universe and creation in the way that we do but his beautiful Canticle of the Creatures which praises God brother son, sister moon, brother wind and sister water shows a realization that we are part of creation.  All created things are brother and sister to us.  We are not separate entities placed above creation.  In case on misread this canticle as the romantic musings of a young thirteenth century hippy frolicking through the fields of Umbria I remind you that he composed this poem late in his life, after much suffering.  It expresses his beleif that in his broken humanity he is a creature, like other creatures, and God is the creator.

   This doesn't mean the we humans are the same as other creatures.  We are the supposedly rational, intelligent creatures who therefore have a responsibility to take care of the gifts that God has given us.  This calls us to see all around us as a gift to be returned to God in at least as good a condition as God first gave it to us.  This includes our own bodies and all the good things around us.

   I am blessed to live within walking distance of Tampa Bay.  There is beautiful tropical vegetation, beautiful birds flying around, an abundance of fish and the frequent citing of dolphins near the shore.  As I take my regular walks by the bay I engage in the discipline of telling myself that I am part of all this, brother to all of this and that God is good. I often do this in Eagle River, WI in the summertime.  Perhaps you might meditate in a similar way where you live, and if you come across an ugly reminder of what we've done to creation you might think of how you can work to makes things better.

Pelicans at rest by Tampa Bay
On one of the lakes in Eagle River, WI

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this post with us Friar John! I have recently been doing research on franciscan values because my teacher had mentioned the philosophy to me. That's how I came across your blog and it was a very interesting read. Your whole blog has actually been a huge help and help me get a better understanding of everything.I'm going to make sure to share your blog with some of family members.