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Scottish Catholic leaders publish climate change study guide

March 23, 2011:

St Andrews, Scotland. PICTURE: Creative Commons Twicepix

The Catholic Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh has produced a study guide on the Catholic commitment to care for God’s creation. It explicitly addresses the issue of climate change.

The study guide includes prayers and Scripture reflections about the environment, climate change impact case studies, ways to become an “eco-congregation,” and suggestions about how to reduce your carbon footprint in defense of both Creation and the poor.

It also includes the following Easter homily on the environment, which is inspiring for many of its ideas, and particularly for its reinterpretation of the instruction in Genesis to be a master of creation: that Christians should learn from Jesus' teachings what it is really to be a master. Which is to be a servant.

Easter homily on the environment

On Easter Sunday, 2007, Cardinal O’Brien preached on the link between the Easter story and our environmental responsibilities. Here are some highlights of that homily:

“Keep close to Nature's heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold-seeking crowd in God’s pure air. It will help you in your efforts to bring to these people something better than gold. Don’t lose your freedom and your love of the earth as God made it.” (From 'Meditations of John Muir', edited by Chris Highland)
In our Easter vigil we remind ourselves of the story of creation, how, one by one, the earth, the seas, the plants, the creatures and the human family were each created, and how each delighted the Creator. “God saw that it was good”, was a refrain we heard over again.

We began in the darkness and blessed the Easter fire, which lit the Easter candle, a flame we referred to as a Holy light. We blessed the Easter water which was used to baptise and with which we recalled the promises and obligations of our own baptism. It too became holy, and many of us use holy water in our own homes.

At Easter, the wonders and the beauty of creation are brought into the heart of our church and our liturgy.

Beyond the doors of our churches we are also made aware in very many ways of the wonder of creation; the blossoms, the spring flowers, the lambs, the first hint of leaves on the trees, are all signs to us of the Creator. We rightly give thanks, and we say today in Psalm 117: “This day was made by the Lord, we rejoice and are glad”.

But we look at this wonderful creation only a little bit more closely and we see signs that are not wonders, but warnings. Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. A quarter of all mammals are in danger of extinction, as are thousands of species of birds.

Rainforests are fast disappearing and have been reduced by half even in my own lifetime. I cannot help but wonder as I go round schools what will happen to those remaining forests during the lifetime of the children I meet there, so trusting of us to make the right choices on their behalf. We fail those children in the way we destroy the land.

When I think again of that beautiful story of creation in Genesis I am taken slightly aback to read of God’s instruction to humans to “be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all the living animals on the earth”. How are we to understand such an instruction in this day and age?

We must, I believe, understand this instruction as we understand all other kinds of mastery, and that is in light of the witness and example of Jesus. He taught us very clearly what it is to be a master. It is to be a servant.

Far from understanding Genesis as permission to take what we like from the earth, we must consider ourselves to be at the service of the earth, every bit as much as we are the service of our neighbour. Unique among all that God created, it is the human family that is said to be in God’s image and likeness. All the more urgent, therefore, is the demand upon us to cooperate with God in the preservation and nurture of the earth, to be servants.

How do we proceed as carers of the earth, then? What do we learn from the Risen Christ of how to exercise our call to be at the service of the planet? What do we learn from the first witnesses to the resurrection of how to live our lives fully and responsibly?

Quite simply, we must learn to live simply. By living simply we will do all that our Easter faith demands of us. We will serve our neighbour in the name of love and justice, we will serve our planet in the name of all generations to come, we will serve the Lord in honour of the name God has given us – God’s sons and daughters.

This Easter, may we each hear our name being called out in the garden, as Mary did, hear our call to be servants of the poor and servants of the earth, and may we all receive the grace to live simply.

Have a very blessed, happy and holy Easter.

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