Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 14, 2003
Make your Earth footprint gentle
Incorporate global ecology into your own spiritual life
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
In its more negative expression, post-modernism is characterized by pervasive distrust of anyone outside the self; cynicism about the possibility of any objective truths; institutional fragmentation, rampant subjectivism and relativism; and a sense of things not being coherent, of not fitting together.
A classic illustration of post-modernism at its worst is the recent decision of the federal government to introduce legislation that promises to enlarge and thereby alter the definition of marriage in order to include same-sex partners. This lunacy discriminates against marriage and the family, and deprives both of them of social and legal recognition as the fundamental and irreplaceable basis of society.
In a more positive context, post-modernism gives birth to fresh conceptualization, new discourses to assist in explaining our contemporary condition. For example, in our post-modern era, many have come to realize that our love must extend to all of creation - to animals and insects, rocks and mountains, rivers and seas, flowers and trees, earth and sky - everything that God has created.
Some of us have come to this awareness by means of our prayer. I had my own consciousness raised at a jubilee garden blessing at Monsignor Doyle School where we prayed, unveiled an Inukshuk, read the parable of the sower, released lady bugs and balloons, dedicated trees, attached prayer flags, and sang Oh What a Wonderful World.
Others have been converted to a greater sensitivity for the planet through social analysis. Reflecting on the beauty of nature, we have become saddened by the abuse of it by human beings. Such assaults on nature as deforestation, the use of harmful pesticides, air and water pollution, species extinction, and toxic waste have convinced us that there are threats to the very integrity of creation.
To reverse this process of environmental abuse we need concrete, practical action, in both local and global arenas. We need to become responsible stewards.
In Sacred Scripture a steward is the one who sees to the law of a household. The steward oversees the domestic order: the rhythms, rules, and agreements in which a household or community thrives. Stewardship describes a leadership position reserved for experienced, capable persons. Stewards exercise considerable authority, but not in their own name. Stewardship links power with service of a community and authority with dependence on the Lord of the house.
"In the beginning, When God created the heavens and the earth, God said, 'Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth that bears fruit with its seed in it.' . . . God saw how good it was. . . . God also said: 'See, I give you every seed bearing plant allover the earth and every tree.'"
St. Francis of Assisi, the heavenly patron of those who promote ecology, offers us an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation. As a friend of the poor who was loved by God's creatures, St. Francis invited all of creation - animals, plants, natural forces, even brother sun and sister moon - to give honour and praise to the Lord.
St. Francis heard the message of God's goodness, of creation's interdependence and of humanity's responsibility toward it. He understood what stewardship of creation was all about, he understood the intimate connection between all of God's creatures, and that we are dependent upon the Creator for our very existence.
Francis had a contemplative's sense of joy, wonder and praise for each of God's gifts. Every creature in the world was a mirror of God's presence and, if approached correctly, a step leading one to God.
As we look around us and read the "signs of the times," we face a challenging time of crisis and opportunity. This is the time to make important decisions. In religious terms, this time is a call to conversion.
We need to re-examine the ways we think and act, to affirm and support better what we are presently doing that is environmentally responsible and to critique and challenge what is irresponsible and unsustainable.
How can we become more responsible stewards in our lifestyle choices, energy consumption, garbage and recycling practices, and in our everyday decisions as consumers, workers, investors and citizens?
How can we pass on to our youth a respect and appreciation for all God's creation as well as the confidence and hope that a more just and sustainable society is a historical possibility worth struggling to achieve?
How do we avoid passing on an increasing environmental deficit to our children and grandchildren?
What is needed to make environmental responsibility a major social priority?
Scientists are telling us that in the face of rising global population and increased energy and natural consumption, we have a limited window of opportunity to change our environmentally destructive ways of relating to the earth.
Failure to act in a timely and decisive manner will threaten the ability of the earth to nurture and sustain life as we know it.
Confronting such challenges can seem so overwhelming - "there is nothing that I can do." Nothing could be further from the truth. The best place to start is to set aside a few moments every day to go for a walk in your neighbourhood and notice the wildlife. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" (Psalm 42:1).
Every creature in the world was a mirror of God's presence and, if approached correctly, a step leading one to God.
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