Chris sent this in for Earth Day (yesterday) and I though to share it with you.
Hi Fr. Valencheck,
I hope this email finds you well.
My name is Chris Payne. I'm a parishioner at St. Sebastian and a biology professor at Malone University in Canton (transferring to Franciscan U in Steubenville in the fall). I've written an earth day reflection to share with my protestant colleagues at Malone, but I thought that maybe it was something you could share via your daily letter (or similar venue) to help brighten some people's days and remind them there's still a beautiful world out there!
(This Apr 22 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!!)
I'll post it below.
Thanks, and God bless!
Ever take a walk through the forest in the ealive?
arly morning when the forest just feels
The birds are singing. Nocturnal mammals can be seen scurrying, climbing or flying back to their homes to rest for the day. Flowers begin to open, and the morning throngs begin to wake – chattering with one another and grabbing their early morning bite to eat. Insect wings can be heard warming up and buzzing about as the dew dries in the rising sun, and the army of ants has already begun its work for the day. The trees rustle in the gentle breeze, and the water trickles in the nearby brook. The sounds and sights are enough to keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!
But, also, strangely familiar...
Walk outside and down a busy street and you might find similar early morning energy from hustling, bustling, people -- some heading home from their night shift while others are just starting their first cup of coffee. Maybe you catch a glimpse of a child at play or someone deep in morning prayer. The commotion in a bustling suburban home or on a busy farm are not much different than these. The sounds and sights are enough to keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!
It’s funny how much we’ve pretended for so long that “our” world is any different from that of the deer or wood thrush. In the forest, everything relies on one another. A beautiful ecology unfolds the more intently you examine the patterns and processes going on all around you...But isn’t the same true in the city? or the farm? So many people leading so many different lives, and yet all somehow interacting with one another. Somehow all part of an amazing ecology – somehow all part of one human family. And yet, we still rely on the organisms and landscapes all around us…
As Christians, we are called to celebrate and rejoice in life! And there’s no better way to do so than through our calling to love our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). But who is our neighbor?
Truly if we are to envision ourselves in the image of God – who is love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – then we can understand neighbor through the image of family. Not simply through our immediate family, but through intricate layers of family all interacting and reliant on each other: love of parents and siblings, love of classmates, love of co-workers, love of people in our town, love of people in our political party, (love of enemy!), love of our countrymen, love of all human life – love of the entire human family!
Yet, is this enough?
Just as each of these “layers” of family rely on and build from one another (as if concentric circles emanating from the shared love of our Holy and eternally loving Father), they still rely intricately on the complexities of Creation all around us. Somehow, love of family is subsumed in the greater story of God’s life-giving Creation. (And, more mysteriously and gloriously, the entire story of Creation is subsumed in the truth of Easter!). Those early morning walks examining the wondrous forest landscape and the strolls down busy city streets lead us to know that “our world” is in fact a part of an intricate and beautiful Creation that extends beyond our city streets and includes and contains all living things. Our call to love neighbor, then, must surely include love of all of Creation. Just as God’s Son truly loved all of us.
Know that as we advance our fields of ecological, biological, chemical, and physical sciences that we learn every day how our decisions impact those we are called to love. And sometimes – in fact, much of the time – our decisions instead hurt the life that God called us to care for (Gen 1:26, Gen 2:15). Ask yourself: “Do I make my daily decisions and live my life caring about how I impact those I’m called to love? Is my lifestyle promoting the sustainability of life throughout our planet? Do I truly love all life?”
“Isn’t now as good a time to start as any??”
This Earth Day, celebrate family and celebrate life. Give praise for God’s unimaginably complex and glorious Creation! Celebrate the interwoven and intricate ecologies of humankind and the world in which we live. Rejoice in God’s love for all of us, and delight in His calling for us to love neighbor. And most importantly, reflect upon the role you’ve been chosen to play in caring for God’s Creation. Isn’t today a wonderful day to do something about it? Answering the call will surely keep your attention for hours! OH HOW ALIVE IT IS!!