The Cry of the Earth 2
In my previous article I wrote about the revised document on climate changes which was issued by the Irish Bishops in October 2014. The bishops tell us that while the science of continues to change, as new data becomes available, response of Catholics to the destruction which climate change will bring is based on the unchanging values of the Gospel of Jesus. While this is true important changes have taken place in the Catholic Church since The Cry of the Earth was wrutten in 2009.
The most important change was the election of Pope Francis in March 2013. The very choice of the name Francis indicated that, for him, concern for the poor and God’s creation would be at the core of his ministry as Bishop of Rome. In his homily at his inauguration Mass he explained that the protection of creation is the concern of all. He “appealed to those who have positions of responsilility in the economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwisll: ‘Let us be protectors of protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
In part two of The Cry of the Earth the Irish Bishops elaborate on our responsibility as Christians to care for creation. First of all they make the important point which is often forgotten in Catholic theology, that “the earth cares for us by providing us with everything we need for our well-being.” Then they go on to point out that in the Book of Genesis humans are called to be stewards on God’s creation. In Genesis 2:15 God took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden ‘to till and to keep.’ Both these word have overtones of service and our commitment to care for creation.
This call on us to be stewards for all life is made again and again throughout
the scriptures. Central to the Noah story (Gn 11-9:17), for example, is God’s
commandment to Noah to conserve nature by taking two of every kind into
the ark (Gn 6:19). Later, after the flood, when God renews the covenant it is
not merely with humankind, but with all creation: ‘I am now establishing my
covenant with you and with all your descendants to come, and with every
living creature that was with you … everything that came out of the ark’
(Gn 9:10). Scripture also witnesses to God’s wisdom embedded in the earth (Job 38:2). In the psalms we look at the earth’s wonders and praise our Creator (Ps 148).
The Bishops then develop their trinitarian theology of creation which teaches that this good and beautiful universe has been brought forth by the community of love that is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Creation itself is an act of Divine love. It is given to us as a free gift. Saint Paul writes that ‘all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together’ (Col 1:16-17).
In the incarnation God entered into the material world in a unique manner in the person of Jesus Christ. He fully identified himself with our humanity and thus with all creation. The importance of nature in the life of Jesus is highlighted in a particular way in St Mark’s Gospel. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, Mark tells us, ‘where wild beasts and angels looked after him’ (Mk 1:12 and 13). It was during his sojourn in the desert that Jesus came to full awareness of the messianic ministry he was called to embrace. St John sums up the mission of Jesus when he writes, ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10).
The resurrection of Christ is the beginning of a new creation (2 Cor 5:17-19). Through the reality of the resurrection all matter is transformed and taken up into the life of the Trinity. The Easter preface in the Roman Missal echoes this belief when it proclaims: ‘In Him a new age has dawned, the long reign of sin is ended, a broken world has been renewed and man is once again made whole.’The resurrection is also a cosmic sign of hope. All creation is united in Christ and, therefore, has a future in God. This hope is anchored in the presence of the Spirit in our world. The bishops believe that the Spirit, whom we confess in the Creed to be the Lord and giver of life is calling everyone to ‘renew the face of the earth.”
The Cry of the Earth 2