Care of our Common Home — A Reflection

Br. Rupert O’Sullivan

“St Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his beauty and goodness.”

We are reminded by scientists that we have a small window of opportunity to address very serious issues facing our world. Global warming is rising, oceans are warming, ice caps are melting, there is glacial retreat, sea-levels are rising and plastic is damaging our oceans. We are experiencing extreme weather events, fires in our rain forests are a regular occurrence, all worrying tipping points for our ‘common home’ as these vast ecosystems are the lungs of our planet. These and many more far-reaching and unprecedented changes in our environment pose the question, “How are we ever going to get out of this mess”?

When reflecting on this question, I am reminded of the image of the eagle and its young. The eagle builds its nest high up in the mountain crevasse. When the young are hatched and strong enough, mother eagle pushes its young over the edge, down to what the eaglet’s eyes seem like sudden death. Just before the young eagle crashes, the mother eagle swoops down from its nest, down into the abyss, clutches it’s young and flies back up into the sky, The process is repeated until the eaglet has leamed the art of flying. Maybe, God is stirring us, bringing us to the brink of danger, so that we might begin to examine ourselves and restore our relationship with nature.

Biodiversity is our safety net because our survival depends on other species. Without healthy plants, no oxygen, without bees to pollinate, our food supply is at risk. Let’s cultivate hope by the way we protect biodiversity, by helping reduce our use of fossil fuels, by cutting out pesticides and by growing bee-friendly plants and wildflowers. We leam too that the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, rely on biodiversity which embraces the millions of species living in the soil, streams, forests, oceans and deserts. Each species has some element of God’s creativity and by its very existence, gives glory to God. Each has a role to play which benefits the whole of creation, providing the essentials for a healthy environment.

From childhood, I was taught not to waste food and not to eat as if there was no tomorrow. I realize now the wisdom of that statement having lived and worked in Africa. Surplus food is always kept for the following day, Food is a gift not to be wasted. Unfortunately, food waste is a major contributor to global climate change. Laudato Si, par 50, states, that whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor. Food for thought, indeed!

How nature appears to thrive in the absence of human activity? The animal kingdom and plant life thrived during the recent pandemic. How ironic! Creation began to heal itself! I believe human exploitation of our natural world and the pandemic are inextricably linked. How can we be healthy, if our world is sick?

I believe God will restore creation. I am encouraged by the ‘Fridays for Future’ movement, and climate strikes by young people of the world. We are learning more about climate change and we are experiencing it in our everyday lives. We may not always face challenges in life head-on until we feel the pinch and we are beginning to feel that pinch right now. Is it taking a pandemic to bring us to our senses?