Over the past two days, we have heard, once again, the wonderful story of the creation of the world. It’s not meant to be a science textbook or a timetable of events, of course, but instead delivers the message that all of creation was set in motion by our God, and that all of creation was created good, and created for good. That’s something we tend to forget, at times, and when we do, it causes things like pollution, environmental disasters, and so much more. We were given the earth to use and to care for, and we have to be diligent in caring for it.
Pope Francis has been outspoken in his teaching on caring for God’s creation, which has long been a pillar of Catholic social teaching, and is based on the very reading we’ve heard the last two days. He even called care for creation a work of mercy, expanding on the themes of his first encyclical, Laudato Si’. “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behavior,” he said. “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence. … We have no such right.”
When we abuse creation, we also cause problems for other people, most often the poor. Francis has gone on to say, “When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings. At the same time, each creature has its own intrinsic value that must be respected.”
But none of this is to say that creation isn’t for our use. In today’s first reading, God is very clear: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” But our use of God’s creation must reflect the gift that it is for us: we must also be able to hand that gift on to forthcoming generations.
Just because we are unable to individually solve every environmental problem doesn’t mean that we aren’t important in the effort. Every little thing we can do to protect creation means something. As Pope Francis also said, “We should not think that our efforts – even our small gestures – don’t matter. Virtue, including ecological virtue, can be infectious.” And so every time we are in the presence of the beauty of creation, we should send up a prayer of thanks, along with the Psalmist today, who prayed: “When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place—What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him? O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!”