CARING FOR OUR COMMON HOME
By Fr Andy Hamilton SJ
Pope Francis has named September the season of creation. In Europe, September introduces autumn with leaves that change colour, heralding cooler temperatures. It is a time of “mellow fruitfulness”, a time of gratitude for the beauty of creation with perhaps a touch of melancholy at the approach of winter. This year, of course, it comes at the end of a fearsome heatwave, wildfires, floods and melting ice that destroyed forests and interrupted lives. Melancholy has given way to deep concern about the dangers which climate change poses for the future of our planet. In Australia our attention with the onset of spring has jumped ahead to the possibility of an El Niño-influenced summer.
Pope Francis’ season of creation sets out to awaken our respect for creation. It invites us to see the world not as something apart from us, but as a delicate and interlocking set of relationships of which we are an integral part. It invites us to appreciate our world through the lens of God’s love in the making of our world and in all our relationships in it. The season calls us to be thankful. The first step in respect is noticing the beauty and delicacy of our world and to be overwhelmed by gratitude for being called by God to be part of it. We realise that we do not own our environment but are simply part of it.
When we attend to the beauty of our world, we notice how complex and delicate are the relationships of which we are a part. We notice the scent of flowers in spring, the light green of new growth, the plumage of lorikeets and the role that scents and colours have in the drive of Nature to perpetuate itself. We notice, too, how nothing is superfluous in nature, nothing is ugly. The fallen bark and dead grasses provide material for birds to nest, as well as mulch in which ants and other insects can find food. Our world is an image of God’s love for us. It is not merely useful for our purposes but in its excess it reminds us of the overwhelming gift of God’s love.
To notice such things and to be grateful for them lie at the heart of our celebration of the season of creation. It is the baseline with which our use of God’s gifts of creation must harmonise. It also enables us to recognise and regret the disrespect with which we often treat God’s creation. The pollution, the exploitation and destruction of the rhythms of creation for gain, or even worse, for the destruction of the human and natural world through the weapons of war, are not simply mistakes but are blasphemy. Although we know that much of this disrespect is unintended, and perhaps even unnoticed, we grieve to see it.
To notice and celebrate the season of creation reinforces our commitment to respect it. This can take many different forms. We can join campaigns to draw attention to the ways in which creation is disrespected. We can celebrate the beauty of creation and try to embody respect for it in our ordinary lives – in the way in which we travel, eat and sleep, for example, read, sow seeds, wrap and dispose of rubbish. The season of creation is a time to attend to our world, to celebrate its beauty and respect its delicacy, and to join others in coming to its defence.
Fr Andy Hamilton SJ was recently made a life member of the Australasian Catholic Press Association.
Feature photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.