September 15, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Caring for God’s creation and our common home

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“I recall a popular saying: God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature—creation—is mistreated, she never forgives!”
(Pope Francis)

We hear a lot about the environment these days. Is global warming really happening? How serious is our abuse of the natural resources of our planet—the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we cultivate? Have we lost our ability to marvel at the beauty of the Earth and the vastness of the cosmos? Do we regard ourselves as “owners” or as “stewards” of what truly belongs to God alone?

Care for God’s creation is a core element of Catholic social teaching. In publishing his encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis joined recent popes and bishops in calling attention to care for our environment.

“Laudato Si’ ” not only reflects the pope’s teaching authority, the Church’s magisterium, but throughout its pages he honors the beauty of creation and offers deeply personal thoughts on preserving it. He speaks as a pastor, with a voice that transcends the partisanship often present in debates on climate change.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was often called “the green pope” because he frequently spoke about our duty to care for God’s creation in respectful and responsible ways.

Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II

also taught the importance of environmental stewardship, but in keeping with growing international concerns, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis addressed this issue with a new urgency.

In his encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), Pope Benedict refers to the importance of environmental stewardship. He writes about the “pressing moral need for renewed solidarity” on environmental issues not only among countries but also among individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and our use of it entails a personal responsibility toward humanity as a whole, and in particular toward the poor and toward future generations. (#49)

Bearing in mind our common responsibility for creation, Pope Francis frequently reminds us that there is an essential link between stewardship of the environment and our care for our fellow human beings—especially the poor and the vulnerable.

In a recent address to the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, Pope Francis said, “I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if nature is at our disposition, all too often we do not respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations. Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this Earth which is our common home.”

As all recent popes have affirmed, the Church is not only committed to promoting the protection of land, water and air as gifts of the Creator destined to everyone, but above all the Church seeks to protect humankind from self-destruction. By respecting, and caring for, human life, the Church insists we grow in our ability to respect and care for God’s gift of creation!

The beauty of God’s creation is evident across our 39 counties of central and southern Indiana. Our urban centers and surrounding suburban communities call for a particular kind of stewardship, one that places the needs of the poor and vulnerable squarely before our eyes. The small towns and rural areas of our archdiocese, which combine natural beauty with the challenges of making a living and raising families at the center of America’s heartland, provide a bounty of God’s fruitful harvest through all the seasons of the year.

In order for us to be good stewards of this great gift of God’s creation, we must first acknowledge God’s role as the author and the true owner of everything that is—both the visible and the invisible universe.

Our proper role as stewards is to express our gratitude, in words and in action, and to do our part to nurture and protect all that the Creator-God has entrusted to our care. For this to happen, it is essential to develop a profound relationship between human beings and the environment that mirrors the love of God for all creation.

This is why “caring for our common home” begins with caring for one another—all our sisters and brothers, but especially those who are most vulnerable. Respect for the dignity of all human life flows from, and then reinforces, our care for our common home.

We are called to be responsible stewards of God’s creation. Let’s pray that all of us can respond to this call with love and respect for human life and for all God’s handiwork. †

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