The first chapter of Genesis ends with these words: "God looked at everything God had made and found it to be very good. Evening came and morning followed the sixth day." Billions of years thereafter the first astronauts experienced the same vision when they looked upon this beautiful swirling blue marble from their small cockpit windows and were overcome by its exquisite existence in the black void of space. One of the Russian cosmonauts (Alexi Leonov) exclaimed: "The Earth was small and blue and so touchingly alone, our home which must be defended like a holy relic!”
Today we too have gazed upon the universe with the help of the Hubble and Webb telescopes. They have indeed expanded our knowledge of the multiplicity of galaxies and a picture of an ever-expanding cosmos and yet, so far, no planet has yet been discovered to match our Mother Earth.
Through the ages, great mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen in the 12th century and Saint Francis of Assisi in the 13th century reminded their generations of how we are called to be guardians and stewards of creation. Today we have another Francis, a pope who in his encyclical Laudato Si’, has set before us a strident call, a desperate plea to rescue this magnificent home from utter and irreversible destruction. We are the first generation to witness this possibility. One can feel the cry of the earth in his words, which are one with the voice of the Creator exhorting us to be caretakers and not conquerors of the earth. His exhortations remind us that we are called to cherish and nourish the Earth as a mother loves a child.
Pope Francis challenges us in no uncertain terms to revolutionize our thinking and to change our habits of living by taking a critical look at how we individually and communally have consumed more than our fair share of her resources. To do this we must be willing to admit to ourselves how we have failed in our responsibility to Mother Earth. This special week offers us an opportunity to take Francis’ challenge seriously to alter our lifestyles. Every change we make sends a ripple effect outward toward global healing.
We have too often taken the Earth for granted. This attitude of unlimited resources was due to a lack of consciousness and sometimes arrogance. Today there is no excuse for this mindlessness because we are inundated with scientific evidence of that which our ignorance has caused. Let us realize that when we drink pure water, eat our food, or buy another piece of clothing there are millions of our brothers and sisters who cannot acquire even the basics of life. We are all part of this one planet and the saying attributed to Chief Seattle (d. 1866) is appropriate: "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves. All things are bound together, all things connect.”
Lastly, in addition to the overwhelming view of the planet from outer space, astronauts brought home to us a very important lesson that all of us can learn; namely, that from their windows they saw no boundaries dividing us from one another. There were no lines of demarcation, no human-made walls, but only the seamless unity of all lands and creatures. They were granted the same divine vision that our God must have seen on the last days of creation: That we are one with all of creation and that all of us have equal rights to this beautiful paradise we call home. And it is very good!
– Sister Helen R. Boyd, OP
Sister Helen resides in Dominican Convent where she serves
on the Life Enrichment Committee and co-chairs the Mission Outreach Committee.
Laudato Si’ week is May 21-28, 2023 and offers the theme, 'Hope for the Earth. Hope for Humanity'.
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