There is a beautiful hymn in the old Testament Book of Daniel (ch3) which describes the whole of creation praising God:
“Seas and rivers bless the Lord; dolphins and all water creatures bless the Lord; birds of the air bless the Lord; all animals – wild and tame – bless the Lord; all people, bless the Lord; Sun and moon, stars of heaven, bless the Lord; light and darkness, bless the Lord.”
Twenty years ago, Pope Saint John Paul said it was like a “cosmic choir” singing praise to God in the “Cathedral of creation (GA 10.7.22)!”
For this year, in his message for the Season of Creation, Pope Francis mentions again the “sweet song of creation” sung by the “grandiose cosmic choir”. The Season of Creation begins on the 1 September and runs through to the 4 October, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi – the saint who had a wonderful sense of all creation in harmony, blessing and praising God.
Sadly these days the cosmic choir seems to be out of tune! The consensus amongst scientists points to our planet’s sickness and the destructive impact that climate change is having. All of creation does not appear to be singing in harmony – there is dissonance, with many wrong notes.
That dissonance, that lack of harmony and noise, can be heard especially in the cry of the poor in those parts of the world most impacted by the effects of climate change – droughts, extreme weather events, desertification, deforestation, flooding, fires. We are also well aware of the threat to biodiversity and the loss of so many species of creature and plant.
One only has to look at the way the world’s resources are sometimes squandered or exploited out of greed and for narrow economic interests. We hear of threats to the great forests of the world and the displacement of indigenous peoples. This summer we have seen the devastation of forest fires, lost crops, homes and livelihoods destroyed, scorched earth, massive floods, and temperatures never before recorded. On top of this, war continues to disrupt the food chain, pollutes the atmosphere still further, and exacerbates the world’s huge dependence on fossil fuels like oil and gas.
Last October Pope Francis and other religious and faith leaders met with many scientists and experts, concluding that we are currently “at a moment of opportunity and truth”. “Future generations will never forgive us if we squander this precious opportunity’, they said. “We have inherited a beautiful garden; we must not leave a desert to our children”.
From a faith point of view, God is calling us today, more than ever, to be caring stewards of creation, to protect and nourish our planet and its resources, and not to selfishly waste them or ruthlessly and excessively exploit and destroy them. The challenge to be humble before the wonder of God’s creation, to accept that we need a more balanced, and less wasteful lifestyle; we need “to live more simply, so that others might simply live”
The readings at Mass this weekend speak to us about being humble, a word which has its roots in the Latin word “humus” meaning “grounded”, or “from the earth”.
Saint Thomas Aquinas once wrote that, “Humility means seeing ourselves as God sees us: knowing every good we have comes from Him as pure gift” (Summa Q161). Pope Francis has picked up this theme in his encyclical Laudato Si, on caring for our common home (LS 224). He says, “Once we lose our humility, and become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment”.
Global efforts will continue in the coming months to tackle the urgent issues of climate change. At COP27 in Egypt in November, and at COP15 in Canada in December, world leaders will build on previous discussions at international government level. But we cannot simply leave it to governments to solve these immense problems. Humility calls on each one of us to share both the burden and the search for solutions. In our personal lives at home, and in our schools, parishes and communities, the challenge rests with each and all of us.
Pope Francis speaks of “ecological conversion” and this begins by asking ourselves: how might I change my lifestyle? How can I use more respectfully the good things of this earth that God has given us? Can I make some personal sacrifices in answer to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor that is knocking out of tune the harmony of the great cosmic choir? Can I accept that less is sometimes more?
The theme of this year’s season of creation is, “‘Listening to the Voice of Creation’. It recalls the story in the book of Exodus where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Standing in wonder and awe at God’s presence, Moses humbly took off his sandals – he was standing on holy ground. God spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I have heard the cry of my people. I know their sufferings … Come, now! I will send you … I will be with you” (Ex 3: 1-12).
Let us humbly pray as we begin the season of creation:
“Creator of All,
Your Word went forth to create a symphony of life that sings your praise.
In this Season of Creation, we pray that you would call to us, as from the burning bush, with the sustaining fire of your Spirit.
Breathe upon us.
Open our ears and move our hearts.
Turn us from our inward gaze. Teach us to contemplate your creation, and listen for the voice of each creature declaring your glory.
Enlighten us with the grace to follow the Way of Christ as we learn to walk lightly upon this holy ground.
Fill us with the hope to quench the fires of injustice with the light of your healing love that sustains our common home.
In the name of the One who came to proclaim good news to all creation, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”