(Catholic Sun file photo)

November 21, 2023

Be praised, my Lord, for all your creation! Echoing the words of St. Francis of Assisi in his Canticle of Creation, in these chilly November days, I pray that God’s peace and blessings may warm your hearts and homes. I want to speak to you in this moment about a topic of vital importance to our lives as individuals, as Church, as a nation, and above all, as a single human family: our duty to care for creation.

On November 28, global leaders from many countries will gather in Dubai to search for ways to build a sustainable future while monitoring global progress regarding the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions and prevent climate change. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, will join this meeting, offering moral guidance as the international community seeks to address the climate crisis.

On October 4 of this year, Pope Francis invited all people of good will to support these efforts for justice and peace in Laudate Deum (LD). This short Exhortation, was an effort by Pope Francis to reiterate our collective duty to care for God’s creation, making clear that we must take drastic action to “prevent even more tragic damage” (LD 16).

There is no doubt from the natural beauty that surrounds us in the Diocese of Syracuse, that we live in a beautiful world, which God has filled with love and wonder. Early in the Book of Genesis, God instructed the first members of the human family to care for this beauty. Unfortunately, as we gaze upon that same world millenniums later, we must recognize that we have failed to do so.

Particularly, over the past two centuries, greed and an obsession with short-term profits have caused some people to take far more than their fair share. Our world has suffered under the structures built by such sin and selfishness, especially the poor and vulnerable of our planet. Such suffering continues today, as our Holy Father reiterated just last month: “our responses have not been adequate… the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point” (LD 2).

With this in mind, brothers and sisters, I come to you now with three important requests. First, over the next few weeks as we call to mind in a special way the coming of our God among us, I ask that you join me in prayer. May our leaders and communities heed the Holy Spirit’s promptings and guidance in renewing the face of the earth. May we turn away from the sinful greed and lust for power which have polluted our world; and recommit ourselves “to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God” (see Micah 6:8).

Second, please join me in taking time to reflect on how we might better listen to the cries of the poor and of Mother Earth. I know looking in the mirror can be hard. It is not always easy to admit our faults – to acknowledge those things we have done and left undone. Nonetheless, our faith is lifeless without accompanying good works (see James 2:17); and confronts us to do better in the care of all that has been given us – from the planet we call home to those with whom we inhabit it – reorienting our politics, economies, and culture to care for all that is special to God!

Finally, I ask that you and I really commit to action. As Pope St. John Paul II reminded us in his 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On Social Concern), concern and love for our suffering neighbors “must be translated at all levels into concrete actions.” For young people and families, this may involve learning more about our marvelous planet and the wondrous creatures who share our common home; or heading to a lake or woodlands or a park to enjoy and fall in love all over again with our beautiful world.

Adults, meanwhile, can similarly strive to learn also about the ecological crises which afflict our world—and national initiatives seeking to address them, such as the Catholic Climate Covenant. Such learning together can lead us to further steps, including engaging with governmental leaders, to ensure that our common home receives the care it needs.

Joining together to continue to build the Kingdom of God and our future will help each one of us to respond to God’s call to care for all of creation with the talents we have been endowed with. Echoing the words of St. Francis: “I praise and bless you, Lord, and I give thanks to you, and I will serve you in all humility.”  May this living prayer bear much fruit!  Pax et bonum!

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