A Commentary by Pontifical Household Preacher

ROME, JULY 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In his commentary on this Sunday's readings, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, reveals the biblical foundations for a spiritual environmentalism.

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Matthew (13:1-23)

Creation in Expectation

In the second reading of the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:18-23), we read: "for creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. … The whole of creation has been groaning in travail together until now."

This well-known text speaks to us of solidarity, in good and evil, between man and creation. Together they groan, together they wait; the groaning of man is the fruit of the corruption of his liberty, that of creation is participation in man's destiny. We are before the text of Scripture which is closest to what today is understood by ecology and protection of creation, and this is the topic to which we wish to dedicate our reflection, bringing to light its biblical foundation.

There are two ways of speaking of ecology and respect for creation: one starting from man and the other starting from God. The first has man at the center. In this case, there is not that much concern about the things in themselves but as a function of man: because of the irreparable damage that the exhaustion or contamination of air, water and the disappearance of certain species of animals would have on human life in the world. It is an environmentalism that can be summarized in the motto: "Lets save nature and nature will save us."

This environmentalism is good, but very precarious. Human interests vary, in fact, from nation to nation, from one hemisphere to another, and it is difficult for all to come to agreement. This was seen, in fact, in the famous hole in the ozone. We have now realized that certain gases damage the ozone and we would like to put a limit to refrigerators, aerosols and similar things in which such gases are used. But developing countries, which only now are acquiring these comforts, rightly answer that it is too easy an answer to demand of them to give up these comforts, when we are the ones who have been using them for such a long time.

This is why it is necessary to find in environmentalism a more solid foundation. And the latter can only be of a religious nature. Faith teaches us that we must respect creation, not only for selfish reasons, in order not to harm ourselves, but because creation is not ours. It is true that in the beginning God said to man that he was to "subdue" the earth, but in dependence on him, on his will; as administrator, not as absolute master. He ordered man to "till and keep" the garden (Genesis 2:15); man is therefore keeper, not owner, of the earth. Between him and things there is more of a relationship of solidarity and fraternity than of dominion. St. Francis of Assisi understood all this well, calling all creatures brothers or sisters: the sun, moon, flowers, earth, water.

We are at the height of summer, vacation time. What we are saying can help us to spend the most beautiful and healthy vacations. The best way to temper the body and spirit is not to spend the days close to one another on beaches and then at night squeezed into rooms and dance clubs, thus continuing in another setting the same artificial and chaotic life that is led during the rest of the year.

Rather, we should seek contact with nature, moments when we feel profoundly attuned with it and with things. The power that contact with nature has is incredible to help us re-discover ourselves and our interior equilibrium. Spiritual environmentalism teaches us to go beyond pure "protection" and "respect" of creation; it teaches us to unite ourselves to creation in proclaiming the glory of God.

[Italian original published in Familia Cristiana. Translation by ZENIT]