TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.

Winter seems to have struck us with some very chilly weather, even though the sun continues to bring us some very beautiful days. I am conscious that I am writing this message on the weekend of the United Nations World Environment Day (5 June) which is calling us to take urgent action to revive our damaged ecosystems. This year’s theme is Reimagine. Recreate. Restore. These three words could be the words which describe our diocesan synodal journey.

I have previously shared with you that as a biology teacher in the late 1970’s, I began to teach about the environment and ecosystems. It was not something that had been covered in my science degree, and so I believe that Environmental Science was quite a new science. People were becoming more aware that our place as humans was to be in relationship with nature and not have control over it. I remember teaching the Year 11 and 12 students about this and relating it to our theology about the care of creation. And that was 40 years ago!

I wonder what you did to mark World Environment Day. Allen and I tuned into David Attenborough’s, The Perfect Planet, which was five years in the making. This five-part series is showing how the forces of nature - weather, ocean currents, solar energy and volcanoes – drive, shape and support Earth’s great diversity of life. In doing so, it will reveal how animals are perfectly adapted to whatever the environment throws at them. The first two episodes, on Volcano and the Sun are both spectacularly beautiful, very informative and engaging.

The United Nations has embarked on a Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021 – 2030) with a focus on preventing, halting and reversing our environmental damage, to go from exploiting nature to healing it. Its global mission is to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea. On the United Nations website, the following statement is made:

Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity.

I trust by now most of you are familiar with the material that formed our Synod Papers - https://www.domnsynod.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/32619-DIO-SYNOD-BOOKLET-TWO-WEB-UPDATED.pdf

In the Mission and Outreach Paper you will find the following Foundational Statement:

As co-creators we are called to be stewards who nurture, share and are responsible for God’s gifts.

Given the state of our planet, given the climate change we already experience, given the devastating loss of species, given the terrible burden of ecological disaster on the poorest people of earth, I think Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ may well be the most important church document of the twenty-first century.   (Denis Edwards, Deep Incarnation: God’s Redemptive Suffering with Creatures, 2019, p 128).

And then under the Recommendation to The Synod - Social Issues, the following recommendations were made to us regarding the Care of Creation:

MO 2.3         That our diocesan community undertakes actions that demonstrate our commitment to integral ecology and ecological conversion as articulated in Laudato Si and other Catholic Social Teaching.

MO 2.4         That across the diocese we connect with community environmental groups and participate in activities supporting education, research, and advocacy around the environment.

MO 2.5         That the diocese reviews our environmental footprint and impact with a view to educating, reporting, improving, leading, and modelling.

Some of you might be wondering if there is a theological basis for these recommendations or indeed for the call from the United Nations to restore our global ecosystems.

Over the weekend, while doing some preparatory reading for the Mission Imperative Unit from the Australian Catholic University as part of the Graduate Certificate in Mission and Culture, I came across the following in the reading – The Christian Vision of Humanity – Basic Christian Anthropology by John R. Sachs, SJ (1991), in the section called Dominion Over the Earth: A Share in God's Power on page 17:

As long as we understand that one of the things which makes us truly human is the distinctive ability to acknowledge, appreciate and delight in the reality of all other creatures as other, and to care for them. We are called to a cosmological and ecological mutuality which is founded on the goodness of creation and the delight which the Creator has in it. Therefore, to be God's image or representative on earth, to share in God's dominion, means that we receive a share in God's power for creation, not simply over creation.

And then in the section on Ecology: Stewards of Creation on Page 24:

The Christian understanding of salvation must recover its inherent universality and inclusiveness. It is something which involves not just human beings, but the whole of creation…..Rather, the dignity of human beings is especially evident in their partnership with God in caring for creation. As tenders of the garden and stewards of creation, human beings are not mere underlings with a task to perform. If they are superior to the other creatures, it is because through them the creative, divine Spirit is present and active in a unique way. As a result, humans are more capable of and responsible for the well-being of the creation. Human beings are from God and the earth as well as with God for the earth. Thus the salvation which God desires and promises the world as its sure future is precisely what makes us acknowledge our human responsibility for the world.

And I believe this relates intimately to the feast we are celebrating this weekend – The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Julian MacDonald cfc wrote about our measure of understanding of, and participation in, Eucharist in his weekly reflection:

St Augustine reminded members of the Christian community of Hippo that, by sharing in the Eucharist, they became what they had received, and, consequently, were pledging themselves to be bread broken and wine poured out for others. To live Eucharist means taking on the responsibility of making the love of Christ visible to everyone we encounter. Every time we come together as community around the table of the Eucharist, we remind ourselves of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ, and we come seeking from him and from one another the strength we need to live true to our responsibilities as followers of Jesus.

This week I hope you have time to reflect upon what it means to be a member of the Body and Blood of Christ, while enjoying God’s gifts that surround us every day.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.