Library of the Apostolic Palace
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Catechesis on the occasion of the 50th World Earth Day
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we celebrate the 50th World Earth Day. It is an opportunity to renew our commitment to love our common home and take care of it and the weakest members of our family. As the tragic coronavirus pandemic is showing us, only together and taking on the most fragile can we overcome global challenges. The Encyclical Letter Laudato si ’has this subtitle:" on the care of the common home ". Today we will reflect a little together on this responsibility that characterizes "our passage on this earth" (LS, 160). We must grow in awareness of the care of the common home.
We are made of earthly matter, and the fruits of the earth support our lives. But, as the book of Genesis reminds us, we are not simply "earthly": we also carry within us the vital breath that comes from God (cf. Gen 2: 4-7). We therefore live in the common home as a single human family and in biodiversity with the other creatures of God. As an imago Dei, image of God, we are called to take care and respect for all creatures and to nourish love and compassion for our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest, in imitation of God's love for us, manifested in his Son Jesus, who became man to share this situation with us and save us.
Because of selfishness, we have failed in our responsibility as custodians and administrators of the earth. "It is enough to look at reality with sincerity to see that there is a great deterioration in our common home" (ibid., 61). We polluted it, plundered it, endangering our own lives. For this, various international and local movements have been formed to awaken consciences. I sincerely appreciate these initiatives, and it will still be necessary for our children to take to the streets to teach us what is obvious, that is, there is no future for us if we destroy the environment that supports us.
We have failed to guard the earth, our home-garden, and to guard our brothers. We have sinned against the earth, against our neighbor and, ultimately, against the Creator, the good Father who provides for everyone and wants us to live together in communion and prosperity. And how does the earth react? There is a Spanish saying that is very clear in this, and says so: "God always forgives; we men forgive some times yes some times no; the earth never forgives ”. The earth does not forgive: if we have deteriorated the earth, the answer will be very bad.
How can we restore a harmonious relationship with the earth and the rest of humanity? A harmonious relationship ... Many times we lose the vision of harmony: harmony is the work of the Holy Spirit. Even in the common home, in the earth, even in our relationship with people, with our neighbor, with the poorest, how can we restore this harmony? We need a new way of looking at our common home. Mind you: it is not a repository of resources to be exploited. For us believers, the natural world is the "Gospel of Creation", which expresses the creative power of God in shaping human life and in making the world exist together with what it contains to support humanity. The biblical account of creation ends thus: "God saw what he had done, and behold, it was a very good thing" (Gen 1:31). When we see these natural tragedies that are the earth's response to our mistreatment, I think: "If I ask the Lord now what he thinks about it, I don't think he tells me that it is a very good thing." It was we who ruined the work of the Lord!
In celebrating World Earth Day today, we are called to rediscover the sense of sacred respect for the earth, because it is not only our home, but also the home of God. From this comes the awareness of being on a sacred land!
Dear brothers and sisters, "let us awaken the aesthetic and contemplative sense that God has placed in us" (Apostolic Exhortation postsin. Querida Amazonia, 56). The prophecy of contemplation is something we learn above all from the original peoples, who teach us that we cannot care for the earth if we do not love it and do not respect it. They have that wisdom of "good living", not in the sense of having a good time, no: but of living in harmony with the earth. They call this harmony "good living".
At the same time, we need an ecological conversion that is expressed in concrete actions. As a single, interdependent family, we need a shared plan to ward off threats against our common home. "Interdependence obliges us to think of one world, of a common project" (LS, 164).
We are aware of the importance of collaborating as an international community for the protection of our common home. I urge those with authority to lead the process that will lead to two important international conferences: COP15 on Biodiversity in Kunming (China) and COP26 on Climate Change in Glasgow (United Kingdom). These two meetings are very important.
I would like to encourage organizing concerted interventions also at national and local level. It is good to converge together from all social conditions and also give life to a popular movement "from below". The same World Earth Day, which we celebrate today, was born just like that. Each of us can make our own small contribution: «We must not think that these efforts will not change the world. Such actions spread a good in society that always produces fruit beyond what can be ascertained, because they cause within this land a good that always tends to spread, sometimes invisibly "(LS, 212).
In this Easter time of renewal, let us strive to love and appreciate the magnificent gift of the earth, our common home, and to take care of all members of the human family. As brothers and sisters as we are, let us pray to our heavenly Father together: "Send your Spirit and renew the face of the earth" (cf. Ps 104: 30)