We celebrate World Day of Prayer for Creation on September 1 and the four weeks of September are dedicated to prayer and reflection during the Season of Creation.
In his encyclical letter, Pope Francis draws inspiration from the life and spirituality of St Francis, his namesake, and presents us with a wonderful approach to life and to our role in creation; he also highlights our need for conversion of mind and heart to restore the imbalances caused by our actions, where creation has been abused and suffers the impact of human destruction and misuse of nature.
He talks about this situation and elaborates on the need for an integral ecology that takes us to the heart of the matter.
The urgency for dedication to care for the earth takes on an added dimension in this time of global pandemic where we see on a daily basis the plight of the earth and our brothers and sisters.
The many natural disasters, from bushfires to floods, to famine and earthquake, to the erosion of cliffs and the choking of creatures of the sea through our overuse of plastics, are all powerful signs to all of us of the need for radical awareness, insight and action on our part as stewards of creation.
Pope Francis revisits the story of creation, and he reminds us of God’s creative activity in breathing life into all creatures and bringing our earth to birth.
The Book of Genesis describes our God as a God of graciousness and life whose desire is for all of creation to live together in peace and harmony as one family, with God at the centre of our lives.
The creation story speaks of God’s desire for companionship, creating humankind in the image and likeness of God to care for and reverence the earth and all its creatures, understanding that all is sacred and that we stand on holy ground.
There is also a beautiful image of God walking in companionship with humankind in the garden in the cool of the evening, and of God delighting in all of creation.
Humankind has been given the responsibility to care for and respect all creatures. St Francis spoke of the inter-connectedness of humankind and all of creation. All of God’s creation forms one family and our Creator God calls each of us to the fullness of life together.
In his Canticle of Creation, St Francis described some of these close relationships: he wrote of brother sun, sister moon, brothers wind and air, sisters water and mother earth. This Canticle of Creation begins and ends with praising and thanking God for all that God has made.
Pope Francis urges us to recover this sense of family that will allow us to be renewed by the gift of the Spirit of God and to repair fractured relationships with one another and with creation.
We have caused damage and destruction to our fragile earth by mindless exploitation of our natural environment, and to our neighbours affected at close-hand by such acts.
It is to these vulnerable poor that Pope Francis directs our attention and challenges us to become involved in an integral ecological awareness, spirituality and conversion that seek to restore life, fruitfulness and harmony to all of creation.
As is so often the case, children get the message about the environment. This is evident in their awakening understanding of the damage that is done to the earth by what happens to our rubbish, the pollution that is caused by all kinds of vehicles, their growing awareness of the plight of millions of children across the world who have no or little access to clean water, food and education.
This Season of Creation may be a golden opportunity for us to think again about our fragile earth and family and to seek ways of working with the Spirit to renew the face of the earth and all its creatures.
Kathy Horan is liturgy educator with the Office for Worship
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