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Season of Creation reflection: Richard Leonard

It is hard to imagine an issue that divides our communities so sharply as the call to care for our environment. The destruction of creation that has already seen dramatic changes to climate, species, air and soil quality and rising oceans. For believers care of the earth can never be seen as new, trendy or leftwing. The Bible is filled with images, calls and challenges to live in harmony with the created order. Rain, snow, seeds, sowers, fertile soil, and a labouring creation giving birth to the fruits of the Spirit, are just some of the rich grounds upon which we reflect on the importance of our earth’s ecology.

Pope Francis has said the care of our common home is THE right to life issue. By doing so he is not diminishing other right to life issues but making the unexceptionable point that if we don’t have a healthy planet to live upon then none of us are going to be able to live. In his letter on the environment, Laudato Si, he gave voice to our obligations not to murder creation, and that we have grave moral obligations to care for creation and to treat it as the gift it is. “… If the simple fact of being human moves people to care for the environment of which they are a part, Christians in their turn realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.” (#64) 

Rather than see his teaching as exotic we can see that our care for the earth is one way we can all refrain from killing creation and so committing murder on peoples and places unknown and unseen, so that the earth is developed in such a way that there will be a productive earth for future generations to inherit.

This care for the environment is an important part of our Christian commitment for justice, part of the seamless garment in our ethic of life.  If this means we must limit our consumption, change our priorities in regard to energy and trade and show the third world the way in developing eco-friendly industries, then all the better for us.

Most of us know that we cannot keep going as we are, with ever increasing unsustainable demands on our planet. There is no point any of us crying over the demise of our environment in the future, if we are doing nothing to help it now. Every small thing we do – from being conscious of the issues, to recycling and using our cars less – is not unimportant. Some of us are in positions to do a lot more than these things as well and we should take our Christian responsibilities in this regard very seriously.

We cannot be irresponsible about the world’s finite resources in the hope that we will find solutions in the future. Avarice is not one of the seven deadly sins for nothing. If not for the dignity of and right to life, then for self-interest for the future of our family and friends we must be stewards not wreckers of all God’s good gifts.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting. He is an honorary Fellow of the Catholic University of Australia and visiting Professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Fr Leonard has served on juries at numerous film festivals, including Cannes and Venice. He is a widely published author; whose books include What does it all mean? and Where the Hell is God?