April 24, 2024 at 11:19 a.m.

Praising God, celebrating the earth

Care for creation in all its elements is an essential component of living the Gospel.
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger directs the homily at the candidates for confirmation on Oct. 29 at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady. (Cindy Schultz photo for The Evangelist)
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger directs the homily at the candidates for confirmation on Oct. 29 at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Schenectady. (Cindy Schultz photo for The Evangelist) (Courtesy photo of CINDY SCHULTZ)

By Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

As I exited the home of Rabbi Greg Weitzman and his family on Monday, following the Seder (literally, order) – the traditional meal beginning Passover – to which I had been graciously invited, my host, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, accompanied me to my car, pointing out that it was moonlight. It had not occurred to me that all of the major commemorative events in Judaism take place under a full moon, as the rabbi explained. The people depended upon this natural light during their historical journeys. They knew they could rely on the order of God’s creation to help guide them on their path to seek and follow the will of God.

Since this year’s Passover rituals outside Israel started on what is also Earth Day, April 22, it seems particularly appropriate to meditate on how from this intuition of the Jewish faith — that creation itself can be trusted to sustain us and point out the way to accomplish God’s designs for us — we can learn to respect earth’s natural order, exercising good custody over its riches and blessings. After all, this is an awareness reflected in our meal prayers, one which we all know — do we remember to say it? — when we invoke the Lord’s blessing on ourselves and the gifts, “that we are about to receive from thy bounty …” 

Father Morrette named Facilitator for younger priests

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger is pleased to announce that Father Thomas Morrette has accepted the role of Facilitator for the Five and Under Priests in our Diocese, a position which will assist those priests who have been ordained for five years or less.

The goal of the “Five and Under Program” is to provide a supportive forum for the newly ordained priests of our Diocese, to share experiences, joys and challenges in their first five years of ministry. The program fosters fellowship and fraternity among these men, provides learning opportunities to widen their knowledge of diocesan resources, diocesan staff and other clergy and lay leaders in parishes. This experience helps them to understand and navigate the challenges of ministering in a diverse 14-county Diocese. The program also provides prayer and renewal opportunities to strengthen them in the call they share to serve God’s people.

“I am privileged to serve them as the new Facilitator and to assist them in achieving the group’s important goals,” said Father Morrette.

In his encyclical, “Laudato Si’ ” (2015), Pope Francis urges us not to forget our prayers before and after meals. They are not just perfunctory, nostalgic rituals that we repeat from childhood, devoid of any meaning today in our chaotic times, but a clarion call to an “ecological conversion.” Our Holy Father summons us to this, and not only for the respect for and preservation of our world, but indeed our eternal salvation! Isn’t that an awful lot to expect from some prayers? It may seem so, but the prayer echoes loudly a fundamental truth about the unique relationship between God and humanity.

The foundation of this truth is that God is God and we are not. God is our Creator and indeed the inventor of the entire cosmos. The world and all its creatures are integrally, that is, ecologically interconnected. God alone has established that order, wherein all of its physical and biological harmonies — a symphony of life! — are ordained for the purpose of singing God’s glory, sustaining us on our earthly pilgrimage to God. As Pope Francis points out, this is reflected in St. Francis’ “Canticle of Creation.” The earth is like a sister, a sibling present to us as a friend, who requires our own care even as she nurtures us.

From this it follows that neither we nor the earth are God, who control this order. Attempts to ignore, subvert or alter it will result in confusion at best and destruction of our lives at worst. Observation conducted with scientific discipline has signaled the adverse relationship between attempts to manipulate or exploit the social, biological and physical environment and the integrity and well-being of human beings, all of whom are to enjoy its bounty. Pope Francis specifically advances that science is the lens through which we can discover earth’s voice, we might say, responding to how we are treating her. He cites numerous examples of how our sister cries out in pain from so many instances of abuse.

Although there are many social and institutional sins in global economic and political structures, often ideologically driven, which disrupt and corrupt our “common home,” as Pope Francis terms our world, it ultimately devolves on personal choices we all make. Are we living lives that are morally attuned toward fostering the common good, which ultimately requires a spiritual alignment with God’s plan that respects the dignity of every human person and relationships that promote integral human development? Put simply, he invites us to live and act not only looking after our own individual interests, or even our relationship with God and neighbor as the only task of our spiritual life, but to see care for our common home as essential to our spiritual life, and ultimately our eternal salvation.

Care for creation in all its dimensions — global, national, local and domestic — is not peripheral or supplementary to the essential call of a disciple to proclaim the good news, but a constitutive component of living the Gospel. It is no pagan pantheism whereby earth itself is divinized or some graven totem representing its forces or energies, infused by God, is enshrined. To celebrate the earth is to care for and take custody of it, not to worship it.

This wholly human enterprise of becoming engaged in the social, political, economic and physical cultivation of the earth in a way that fosters the survival and sustainability of natural resources and biosystems requires an examination of our personal lives and the choices we make regarding both production and consumption. The revival of the Catholic Land Movement, for example, articulated originally by Pope Leo XIII, but also consistently promoted in subsequent papal teaching, has inspired some families to adopt ways of living closer to the land, that eschews dependency on overly processed products and respects our connection with the soil. 

Local missions like Capitol Roots and other community farms and gardens have taken up the challenge of growing and delivering food that is fresh and free of the chemical pollutants that compromise the health of the environment and hence of persons, especially the poor. Some parishes in our Diocese have also taken up such projects, not because they are trendy, but as an ongoing way of building a sense of social responsibility for the physical and spiritual health of the community. It is not just a by-product of such enterprises that families and friendships are multiplied and strengthened, especially when they are integrated into a rhythm of disciplined work and prayer — ora et labora as it is called in the Benedictine rule. What better way to inspire more of our young people to participate in care of creation than to don a pair of mud boots and learn to sing God’s praises by tilling the land from which we draw God’s bounty! If we want to leave the world in a better state for our children than we found it in, let’s teach them how to respect and care for it and all its creatures, especially human life itself, as Genesis teaches, which is the crown of God’s glory in creation, echoed eloquently in Mary’s “Magnificat.” 



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