21 April 2015

Happy Earthday

Despite the fact that the Old Testament characterizes mankind as stewards of the Earth and the New Testament presents a cosmic Christ, a Creator God, and a vision of eschatology which focuses on the coming in fullness of a new heaven and a new earth, it is not uncommon to find Christians whose notion of earth falls far short of this foundational theology. In fact, there have been folks calling themselves Christians in the past years who believe that ecological disaster is not only something they ought not try to avoid, but that it is something which would hasten the "end times" when the unrighteous are separated out and the righteous are welcomed into "heaven." Thus, some suggest that human beings should do whatever they can to encourage ecological disaster!

Earthday Flag
A good deal of the theology being done today is focused on the relationship between science and theology. The fact that we belong to an unfinished universe has necessitated a paradigm shift in our entire way of approaching the story of creation and redemption. Instead of a finished universe falling from perfection we belong to an unfinished universe moving toward fulfillment, toward, that is, the day when God will be all in all. Instead of a two or three tier universe where heaven is seen a antithetical to this world, we live in a universe where heaven is defined in terms of God's sovereignty (wherever God is sovereign, there is heaven) and heaven and earth interpenetrate one another because of the Christ event. It is a world which is inherently Sacramental, a world which glorifies (reveals) God in the most ordinary elements, a world which is sacred and is to be stewarded as God's own.

We celebrate Earthday to call attention to the environmental challenges and responsibilities citizens of the earth should be embracing. As Christians we celebrate this as part of our own vocation to stewardship and our own mission to proclaim the Gospel of God. It is the good news of the Risen Christ as first fruits of a New Creation, the announcement that our world has changed, and the basis for our resurrection hope in the day when heaven and earth come to fullness and indeed, God is all in all. Far from being a merely secular holiday Earthday is, or at least should be seen as profoundly Christian. For those clinging to dated spiritualities which allow them to disdain or even denigrate earth in the name of concern for heaven, Earthday reminds us of the New Testament witness of St Paul:

[[For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.]] (Romans 8:19-22, NIV)

In Christ we experience not only our own redemption but the reconciliation of the whole of creation to God (Col1:19-20) Let us accept the challenge and the responsibility which this theology of redemption illuminates for us. It is part of the Easter message and calls us to a spirituality which eschews self-centeredness in favor of a truly cosmic perspective. As Patrick McDonnell's cartoon strip reminds us, the earth is our home. As theologians remind us, that only becomes more profoundly true as creation is caught up in the very life of God. We pray (and in fact, we prayed at Mass just last week) that we might dwell in the house of the Lord forever; let us revere this home for indeed, it is the dwelling place God has made (his) very own.