I love the outdoors, and the pristine and clean environment of much of Oregon, both east and west of the Cascades. The times that I can mountain bike in Forest Park, muddy or dry, are moments to cherish. I have hiked in the Columbia River Gorge and fished for salmon in the Multnomah Channel. (Yes, I caught a big one.) I have even floated the wild and scenic Rogue River.

Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home,” issued a clarion call for all of us to wake up to the dangers facing the earth, our common home. I often wonder what will become of our wonderful state.

Pope Francis is not the first pope to write about ecology and care for creation. He carries on the tradition that began with Genesis when “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good,” (Gn 1:31) and continued with St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology, who lived in the early 13th century. 

Pope Leo XIII clarified that “the blessings of nature … belong to the whole human race in common” (“Rerum Novarum,” #25).

St. Pope John Paul II reminded us, “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith” (1990 World Day of Peace Message).

Pope Benedict XVI placed the environmental considerations of the day squarely within the richness of Catholic thought: “The Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction” (2010 World Day of Peace Message). 

“Laudato Si’” is a moral document, not a political document. Nor is it primarily about public policy. Those who are firmly committed to their faith take it seriously, as it is a document of the Magisterium. It calls all persons to conversion, which can be summed up in two words: “heal relationships.” 

“Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself” (#66).“Genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others”(#70). “There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself” (#118). 

“Laudato Si’” is a call to live life more fully by developing a deeper understanding that “a spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable” (#75) and that “God created the world, writing into it an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore” (#221).

Brothers and sisters, the meaning and purpose of our existence are to know God, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven. Yet we too often forget this essential fact and live our lives as if this were not front and center. “The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume” (#204). “Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle” (#222). 

Instead of being instruments of the Lord, human beings place themselves at the center. “We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves” (#34). What could we possibly create that is more splendid than any work of our Creator? 

Dear reader, in only a few weeks we enter the season of Lent. We begin the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday. The ashes that are placed upon our foreheads are a symbol of our desire for repentance and conversion. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” is one of the choices the priest may use while applying the ashes. If you have offended someone, you repent and ask that person for forgiveness, and the relationship is restored. God gave creation to man; he was to be steward of it. Therefore, humans are accountable for the fate of the earth. But we have severed our relationship with his Creation. It is time that we ask for forgiveness, make reparations, and our relationship with his Creation will be restored. 

“Laudato Si’” is about hope: “We know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home” (LS, #13).

The Lenten season ends with the tragedy of Good Friday. The Paschal Mystery reminds us that after the death of Christ came the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection; from destruction to resurrection. Let Christ’s Resurrection give us the hope that we can move from Creation’s destruction to its resurrection.