All creation gives praise to God. At Mass this Sunday, we hear in the Entrance Antiphon:
Cry out with joy to God, all the earth;
O sing to the glory of his name.
O render him glorious praise, alleluia.
The Liturgy of the Hours picks up this theme in Sunday’s morning prayer. In Psalm 93, we declare: “The waters have lifted up, O Lord, the waters have lifted up their voice, the waters have lifted up their thunder.” From the Canticle of the Three Young Men, we say: “Let the earth bless the Lord. Praise and exalt him above all forever.” And Psalm 148 sings:
Praise the Lord from the earth,
sea creatures and all oceans,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy winds that obey his word;
all mountains and hills,
all fruit trees and cedars,
beasts, wild and tame,
reptiles and birds on the wing;
all earth’s kings and peoples,
earth’s princes and rulers;
young men and maidens,
old men together with children.
All creation is called to praise God.
Creation exists not merely to meet human needs. It is part of God’s self-revelation. Therefore, all creation is a hymn of praise to God.
This was how Saint Francis of Assisi viewed the world. “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore,” he says in the Canticle of the Creatures: “Praise be to you, my Lord.” This song calls all creation our brother, sister, and mother. Appropriately, these words open Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical On Care for Our Common Home.
Thus, Pope Francis calls us to adopt Saint Francis’s perspective. “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.” Laudato si’ (LS) ¶ 84. Moreover, “[w]hen we can see God reflected in all that exists, our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship him in union with them.” LS ¶ 87.
We are to care for all creation, not to manipulate it as some mere object
Francis teaches us that nature is not here for our “unbridled exploitation”:
We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.
LS ¶ 67.
God loves all creation
Christians believe “that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. … Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things.” LS ¶ 77. “[O]ther living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes: ‘by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory,’ and indeed, ‘the Lord rejoices in all his works.” LS ¶ 69 (quoting Ps 104: 31).
Our care for the world is a demand of justice
The late Jesuit theologian Walter J. Burghardt asks: “When were Israelites just?” The answer, he says, is “when they were in right relation in all aspects of their life: properly postured toward God, toward other men and women, and toward the earth, God’s material creation.” Worship and Justice Reunited, p. 36, in Anne Y. Koester (ed.), Liturgy and Justice (2002).
Francis sees the disruption of these relations as the source of sin and of our conflict with nature. “[H]uman life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. … As a result, the originally harmonious relationship between human beings and nature became conflictual.” LS ¶ 66.
Earth Day is an opportunity to celebrate all creation
Since 1970, we have observed Earth Day on April 22. We show support for actions to protect the environment. Each Earth Day focuses on a particular theme. This year, the theme is ending plastics pollution.
According to the Earth Day Network:
From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet.
Education is a key component of the Earth Day Network’s plastics campaign. This reflects Francis’s message that “[e]ducation in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic ….” LS ¶ 211.
For more information about Earth Day 2018, go to the Earth Day Organization’s website.