June 18, 2021


Caring for God’s creation is good stewardship

In his first homily as the successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis said that we are called by Jesus Christ to be “protectors” or guardians of “all creation, the beauty of the created world.” Another word for protector, guardian or custodian of all God’s gifts is “steward.” We are called to be good stewards of everything God has created.

Concern for the environment has been expressed by all recent popes, and has been explicitly included in the Church’s social teaching because abuse of our natural resources has become so serious in modern times. The Church’s concern stems from our recognition that all creation is God’s gift to humankind—to be cherished, nurtured, developed and used wisely for the good of all and with profound respect for “the beauty of the created world.”

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.

According to Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson:

“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.”

All creation comes from God and is good—the material world, all plants and animals, and especially the first man and woman who were created in his divine image.

The stewardship responsibility given to our first parents was to “name” everything, which means to understand and give expression to its nature and purpose

(Gn 2:19-20). God also commanded that our first parents “be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth” (Gn 9:1). They were to be the guardians of the earthly paradise that God created out of sheer love and goodness for our benefit. That original paradise was lost—temporarily—as a consequence of sin. Thank God it has been restored by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is now an essential element of Christian hope.

We are called to care for the environment (especially air, water, land and the minerals, plants and animals that make up this wonderful planet—and whatever lies beyond!). As people of faith, we believe that the entire universe exists as a result of God’s wise and loving design. Nothing that exists is here by accident. Nothing that God made is inherently evil. All creation is good, and everything that exists is our responsibility—to cherish, nurture, cultivate and generously share.

Pope Francis challenges us to be protectors of all creation, to be stewards of all God’s gifts. We begin to exercise this responsibility when we defend human life—especially the unborn and the vulnerable. When we affirm the sacredness of all human life, we acknowledge God’s plan for each human being, and we work to defend the gift of life from every form of abuse. Similarly, when we affirm that everything God made is good and worthy of our reverence and respect, we look differently on all God’s creation.

Another Francis, our current pope’s namesake, taught with his whole life the meaning of stewardship of God’s creation. He did not regard the sun, moon or stars as distant objects in outer space. He refused to consider minerals, plants and animals as “things” to be used and then discarded by us. He called everything created by God his sisters and brothers. He embraced all God’s creatures with love, friendship and reverence.

As Pope Francis writes in “Laudato Si’ ”:

“What is more, St. Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. … For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty. Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” (#12)

As stewards of creation, we are called to show reverence and respect for every good thing created by our good and gracious God. May we always cherish and protect God’s abundant gifts.

—Daniel Conway

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